Tech 2005: What's New and What's Next

Page 11 of 11

Tech Visionary: The Nearly Invisible Battery

Photograph by Robert Holmgren.
Photograph: Robert Holmgren
Larry DuBois, vice president of physical sciences at SRI International, a nonprofit organization that develops new technologies, says batteries made of paper and other fibers could help devices get more from less.

"You make miles of fiber [battery material], and when you mold the case [of your device], you embed that in the molding," Dubois explains. "You can make your device smaller or lighter, because you don't have to carry around the weight of the [battery casing]." There are also paper-thin, printable batteries that are being used for everything from Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) transmitters (which use tiny chips to track items at a distance) to greeting cards.

Another promising technology is a fast-charging battery that can go from zero to fully charged in less than 10 minutes. "It's a question now of moving the technology out of the lab to the manufacturing arena," Dubois says. "It's probably a couple of years out."

What about the fuel cells that we've been hearing about for gadgets? "[They're] real. People use them. The question is, when does it get into consumers' hands? Until you can buy methanol cartridges all over the country and all over the world, people are going to be hard-pressed to put fuel cells in their systems."

Michael Desmond is a freelance writer living in Burlington, Vermont. He looks forward to the day when he can have all his gadgets installed subcutaneously in his index finger.
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