Alternatives To Chemical Batteries

Chemical batteries have a host of life-cycle sustainability issues, so ICT manufacturers and practitioners are constantly looking to innovate in this area. I've previously taken a look at alternatives to chemical batteries in ICT facilities and infrastructures. What about e-gear? Mitigate, more than eliminate, is the current state of practice.

The Genius DX-ECO wireless mouse is a battery-free unit powered by an rechargeable ultracapacitor. The company claims the unit can be recharged via USB in three minutes "up to 100,000 times."

One can avoid a proliferation of different battery types in field e-gear configuration by using USB-powered components. AOC's 22" e2251Fwu LED monitor is powered through the same USB cable that delivers the video.

USB-powered gear can run off AC in the home or office using a USB power socket. CurrentWerks' USB outlets, 2 or 4 port models, each replace a standard wall outlet. CurrentWerks says they are improvements over use of standard AC adapters because they "Draw NO standby Vampire Power" and "Exceeds 5 Star Energy Standards". Another option is Eastech's UP1102 ECO 2-port socket, which won an Eco-Design and Sustainable Technologies award at CES 2012. Eastech's web site does not appear to provide any information about the product at present.

An alternative to extra batteries in the field for devices is PowerTrekk's fuel cell USB charger. The unit activates when the user adds water. This is new technology and sustainability trade-offs of fuel cells against extra batteries are not yet documented. I have a personal interest in this sort of product as I'm often out in the backcountry. I'll update this post if I try out PowerTrekk or a similar product.

Electronic gadget retailer Brookstone may be offering a store-branded USB fuel celll. No specific announcement from Brookstone, but Lilliputian Systems says a product is in the works. The company claims, "When compared to Lithium-Ion battery alternatives, Lilliputian’s solution provides a 5—10x improvement in volumetric energy density (energy density by volume) and 20—40x improvement in gravimetric energy density (energy density by weight) at a fraction of the cost."

There are an increasing number of products that combine solar with rechargeable li-ion batteries. Etón's Rukus Solar portable sound system uses this approach, offering at USB recharging port as an added feature. I could not find audio specs for this product on the company's website; they would be useful to presentation professionals working in remote venues.

When we can't avoid using batteries, we can reduce their impact by prolonging their life. Tips for li-ion battery life.