Powering the future

Ask people what annoys them most about their laptop and most will say the battery life. We’ve all been there. You’re trying to make the most of that long journey to a meeting, bashing out a few documents on the train when ‘ping’, that annoying little message pops up telling you you’d better save your work now because your battery’s about to die.  To add insult to injury most of them reach the end of their useful life before the laptop they’re attached to does and you end up forking out a ridiculous sum of money for a new one.

Not for long though, thanks to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, who claim to have created a new betavoltaic cell that could power your laptop continuously for 30 years.

The cells are made from semi-conductors, using radioisotopes as the energy source. When the radioactive material decays, the beta-particles emitted create the electricity. It all sounds a bit nuclear really. Fortunately though there’s no fission or fusion involved and to make environmentalists happy, the cells are completely non-toxic and won’t sit in dumps for hundreds of year emitting free radicals into the atmosphere.

The batteries are tiny too and don’t create any thermal energy that makes your computer overheat. It all sounds like a significant breakthrough. The only question is, do you really want a computer to run for 30 years? Somehow I think Windows XP will have had its day by then.

Posted on 30/11/2007
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