26
Jun
11

Interesting Eco-Alternatives To Rechargeable Batteries

Every generation seems to have a fresh new passion. The biggest trend of late has been the desire of everyone to do their part to save the planet. This is especially true in the industrialized first world countries that produce excessive waste. Many people have taken some basic steps to more forward, like becoming involved in recycling and using rechargeable batteries rather than the destructive disposable ones that often end up leaking poison into Mother Earth. However, some people are claiming that even this is not enough and that alternatives to even rechargeable batteries need to be found in order to create greater harmony with the world at large.

Mostly they are virtuous ideas driven by voodoo technology. Here is a look at some of the proposed “alternatives” to rechargeable power:

The Fuel Cell

The most common type of fuel cell is the Methanol Fuel Cell. As early as 1933 some enterprising individuals were submitting patents for Methanol technology with the ultimate hope of creating a mobile power source that was also ecologically friendly. Every few years a company takes up the torch of fuel cells and attempts to develop them into a viable alternative to batteries.

Methanol is a kind of wood alcohol that can produce energy transmitted through a thin plastic membrane when it is mixed with water. This creates potential chemical energy that can be transmuted into electrical energy, the same way stored chemical excitation in a battery can be used to carry power in a chemical format until it is needed by an electrical appliance.

The Methanol Fuel Cell seems like a good idea. A little wood alcohol and water can be mixed together into the cell for instant power. No more needing to recharge at an outlet, merely carry a few jugs of wood alcohol with you and you’re all set.

The crux of the problem with any fuel cells is that rather than simply finding an outlet at a coffee shop, one must lug around combustible fluids. In addition, while water is harmless enough, Methanol is a highly dangerous substance that can be ingested for an intoxicating effect. It will also often make those that drink it blind or dead. Making such products readily available risks the lives of children. In addition, trying to travel with combustible liquids will often put individuals on Interpol’s terrorist watch list.

In short, not an ideal solution.

Nanotubes and Ultra-Capacitors

One of the most impressive ideas to replace batteries came out of the big brains in the Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. They proposed the idea of Capacitors, which store energy as an electrical field, rather than in the chemical form used by standard and rechargeable batteries. This field doesn’t require the conversion of batteries from chemical to electrical power, meaning they can discharge at a greatly accelerated rate. This means they have a much higher potential for power output than a battery. The removal of conversion also makes them more efficient.

The initial problem the fine minds at MIT ran into was that while the power output of the Ultra-Capacitor was bigger and faster than a battery in order to store the power capacitors needed to be significantly larger than batteries.

To combat this, experiments have been underway to use nanotubes, which are micro-thin strands of carbon that can hold a charge far more effectively when used in conjunction with the Ultra-Capacitor. These would be comparably sized to current batteries with coils of nanotubes holding the charge for the Ultra-Capacitor to be released on demand.

The benefits would be a lifespan of approximately ten years, highly efficient recharging and discharging rates meaning more power could be absorbed quickly into the capacitor, reducing charging times, and more efficient discharged which means more power. The capacitors would also not suffer from the dangers of shock, heat, and cold, and could be recharged more times than even the highest quality battery.

The problem is the cost of the capacitors is many times that of a battery. Could it revolutionize the power of the mobile world? Without a doubt. But that would come at a high price due to the intensive process to create these items. For the cost of a single capacitor, you would be able to buy not only several rechargeable batteries, but also a brand new charger and probably a Russian bride.

For now the only way to help the planet and save money when it comes to powering your mobile devices is to use a high quality rechargeable battery. The good intentions of humankind have gone far beyond the technology available to realize dreams of inexpensive power that can be taken anywhere. Like cold fusion and water powered engines, it may be many years before a viable source of power will dethrone the rechargeable battery.

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