The pressure keeps building on power management engineers to produce a breakthrough in energy efficiency performance that will sweep the market forward. But are there any real contenders out there that will have a major impact in the future?
When it comes to battery technology then maybe ZPower's improved silver-zinc rechargeable battery for consumer devices could pose an alternative for lithium-ion's leading position.
ZPower claims its improved battery offers up to 40 percent more run time than traditional lithium-ion batteries, and offers significant improvements in battery cycle life, quality, and consistency. Silver-zinc batteries also feature a water-based chemistry that is not flammable which makes the battery free from the problems of thermal runaway and fire.
A silver-zinc battery option will be rolled out in a major notebook computer in 2009. The battery is aiming to be released as a premium extended-life battery.
Of course, looking back in ten years time we might discover that a combination of traditional technology couple with genetic engineering is what opened new horizons for power management.
This year Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have fabricated micron-scale batteries by combining microcontact printing and virus-based self-assembly techniques.
Using microcontact printing, the batteries can be stamped onto a variety of surfaces. About half the size of a human cell.
Genetically engineered viruses were used to assemble layers of the battery material atop an array of posts that were patterned with soft lithography. Once the battery was assembled atop the posts, the assembly was used to print arrays of batteries by transferring the material atop the posts onto a substrate.
MIT engineers have now fabricated the electrolyte and anode of the micron-sized batteries, two of the three key components of a battery. The researchers plan to use a second genetically engineered virus to deposit a cathode atop the posts to enable complete batteries to be printed onto even curved surfaces.
The key to the MIT's battery technology is its genetically engineered virus, whose genes were altered so that they produce proteins that collect cobalt oxide molecules, which formed thin wires for the anode. By coating the metal posts with the anode and electrolyte material, it could be transfered to nearly any surface. For testing, the battery components were stamped onto a platinum structure that, together with lithium foil, formed a cathode.
Or maybe nanotechnology is finally going to come of age and lead to a major power management advance.
For example, researchers from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the CEA-Liten, the Laboratory for Innovation in New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials, have explained in recent months why lithium iron phosphate, a future component of lithium batteries, conducts electricity despite being an insulating material. The 'domino cascade process' discovery may trigger the search for improved battery electrode materials.
Lithium iron phosphate is environmentally friendly and combines low cost with good thermal stability but until now does not perform that well from an electrical efficiency point of view. The new discovery could be the first step to transforming that performance.
How many of these developments, if any, have the power to transform our everyday lives?
Which one would you invest in? Or have you another contender to propose?