New technology that uses old laptop batteries to provide sustainable electricity could be offered free to the world’s poor.
Every year, around 50 million lithium-ion laptop batteries are thrown away in the US alone, reports MIT Technology Review. And according to new IBM research, these could be harvested to power homes in poorer countries, where energy supply is non-existent, or at the very least insufficient and fractured.
The IBM study looked at a sample of discarded batteries. Amazingly, it found as much as 70% of them held enough energy to keep an LED light on for more than four hours a day — for a whole year. The idea was forged in Bangalore, India — a country where a huge number of people live in rural areas and slums that don’t have proper access to electricity.
Researchers at IBM say laptop batteries could be used instead and suggest they’re a cheap, environmentally sustainable alternative. The findings were to be presented at a conference in California on December 5-6.
Below is a prototype model. It’s a single laptop battery refurbished to power an electric fan and light source. IBM explains individual Li-Ion cells are connected to a charging circuit and charging converters to create power.
Vikas Chandan, a research scientist at the Smarter Energy Group, who led the project, explains to MIT: “The most costly component in these systems is often the battery. In this case, the most expensive part of your storage solution is coming from trash.”
The IBM team worked with a hardware firm called RadioStudio to understand how to use laptop batteries to provide light to homes. The technology works by extracting storage units called cells and refurbishing them for reuse.
Alongside charging “dongles” to apply power, these were given to street vendors in Bangalore to use on their carts. In India, more than 400 million people aren’t connected to the main electricity grid.
IBM is not thinking about rolling this development out as a business model, but as a free donation to poor countries.
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