Five innovations that will change our lives, part two: batteries
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Five innovations that will change our lives, part two: batteries

IBM recently unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" -- a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as -- not surprisingly -- emerging technologies from IBM's Labs. Here's the second part of our look at what IBM predicts -- and how this might affect the Apple world.

Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that powers up by being carried in your pocket? In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today. Can you image an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with that sort of potential?

Better yet, in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices. Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today, scientists are working on batteries that use the air we breath to react with energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting batteries. If successful, the result will be a lightweight, powerful and rechargeable battery capable of powering everything from electric cars to consumer devices.

But what if we could eliminate batteries altogether? By rethinking the basic building block of electronic devices, the transistor, IBM is aiming to reduce the amount of energy per transistor to less than 0.5 volts. With energy demands this low, we might be able to lose the battery altogether in some devices like mobile phones or e-readers.

The result would be battery-free electronic devices that can be charged using a technique called energy scavenging. Some wrist watches use this today -- they require no winding and charge based on the movement of your arm. The same concept could be used to charge mobile phones, for example -- just shake and dial. I have trouble envisioning an iPhone that Steve Jobs would want us to shake, but, hey, an Apple watch/iPod nano with no battery would be pretty cool.

-- Dennis Sellers

 

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