Researchers Tout another Battery Breakthrough

Paul Lilly

Imagine if your Zune HD or iPod touch could tolerate weeks, maybe even months of frequent use before needing to be recharged. Or if your smartphone could last even half as long, not in standby mode, but during normal use, like making phone calls, browsing the web, and playing games. For the most part, these scenarios have been pipe dreams filled with promises of new and exciting battery technologies that could turn these dreams into reality. The latest promise comes from a team of University of Illinois engineers who claim to have developed a form of ultra-low power digital memory that is both faster and uses up to 100 times less energy than similar available memory.

According to the institution's newspaper, such a technology could mean much longer battery life for portable devices. The flash memory used in today's devices stores bits as charge, and these require high programming voltages. They're also pretty slow. The team of engineers, lead by electrical and computer engineering professor Eric Pop, managed to lower the power per bit to 100 times less than existing power phase-change materials (PCM) by using carbon nanotubes just a few nanometers in diameter.

"I think anyone who is dealing with a lot of chargers and plugging things in every night can relate to wanting a cell phone or laptop whose batteries can last for weeks or months," said Pop.

Pop and his team will publish its results in an upcoming issue of Science magazine. In the meantime, there are plenty more geeky details to digest right here .

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