Will the FAA Ban Laptop Batteries?
What's the Long-Term Solution?
The problem with laptop batteries is lithium, which is highly reactive. In order to break through current limitations with weight and battery life, the industry is already working on next-generation batteries that don't contain lithium. Unfortunately, some of these alternative power sources also contain flammable or toxic materials.
The Pentagon is currently organizing a DARPA Challenge-like contest called the Wearable Power Prize for next-generation batteries that are very light, very powerful and very long-lasting. The military is specifying a maximum weight of 8.8 pounds, but the batteries must produce at least 20 watts for four days. Some of these likely solutions could use rocket fuel inside the batteries! Others may involve safer alternatives to lithium (or rocket-fuel) batteries. Companies and universities around the world are also working on better batteries.
Until someone invents a better battery, all frequent fliers can do is wait - and hope - that my prediction of in-flight laptop explosions, and a subsequent FAA crackdown, never comes to pass.
(Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. He blogs about the technology needs, desires and successes of mobile warriors in his Computerworld blog, The World Is My Office. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or his blog, The Raw Feed.)
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