Future innovations

Most of our posts have looked at why we need to recycle our used batteries. But limiting e-waste is not just about proper disposal. It’s also about minimising how many batteries we use.

The obvious answer? Rechargeables! These not only last longer, but can be used multiple times and cost less in the long run. There are also many cheap usb powered lights available, some costing as little at $3. But, in recent years many new technologies and innovations are popping up.

I thought I’d start with a fun one. A toy car that runs on sugar! This child’s toy runs on stuff kids love, but probably shouldn’t have too much of… soft drink! It’s developed by TOMY ENE Pocket and SONY, and it gives the perfect opportunity to trial this ‘bio-battery’. Speed and distance vary depending on what liquid is used, but apparently grape juice works best. There are also other bio-battery powered toys and devices in development including fans and hand-powered generators for lights.

This year a 15 year old girl from British Columbia invented a flashlight powered by the human hand. (Read and watch here) It uses thermal energy transferred through a human’s skin to the base of the torch which heats tiles inside a the tube. While it doesn’t create a very bright light, I think it suggests there is an untapped source of power within us all!

Source: Youtube

Source: Youtube

Fluidic Energy on behalf of Arizona State University has developed a zinc-air battery. Metal-air batteries have been around for about 100 years but have never been able to recharge. It uses ionic liquids (low temperature liquid salts) rather than water based electrolytes and reportedly has 11x the energy density than the best lithium-ion batteries. Designed to replace diesel gensets and lead-acid batteries, it is completely sustainable and contains no cadmium, mercury or fossil fuels making it one of the least toxic large-scale options available to industry.

I’m wondering whether any of our readers have stumbled upon any exciting new alternatives to battery power? Let us know in the comment section below. Or ask any questions you want answered in one of our post!

-Lexie

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8 thoughts on “Future innovations

  1. Wow the toy car powered by soft drink is pretty cool. Solar power isn’t exactly something new but I think it’s such a great alternative to batteries it should be mentioned. It’s so easy just to leave things like path lights out in the sun gaining power making battery use just seem like such an ancient way of producing power.

    • Thanks Angela, as always your reflection to our blog is much appreciated.
      Solar power is such a great resource in Australia as we have so much beautiful sunshine. There is such a diverse array of products available, from solar water pumps, to fairy lights, to air-conditoners. Considering that, 70% of energy use and 63% of greenhouse gas emissions from commercial buildings in Australia can be attributed to ventilation, heating and cooling systems; solar power seems an obvious alternative.
      Do you use any type of solar power at home?
      -Lexie

  2. Australia really needs to invest in harvesting the energy of marawans as part of a broader approach to diversifying our economy. Our reliance on non-renewable energy sources is going to dampen economic growth in the medium to long term.

    • Very true Carl, thank you for your comment. It seems ridiculous that, especially in Australia, we rely so heavily on non-sustainable sources like coal. Instead of investing in ways to harness natural power. Similarly, we at Recharge the Environment see recycling ALL types of batteries as a financial as well as an environmental investment.
      I’m interested to know how/why you believe harvesting marijuana will provide a sustainable option?
      -Lexie

      • Hi lexi,

        Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. The legalisation of marijuana will have significant benefits to both the Australian economy and the environment.

        Benefits:
        1. Hemp is an extremely versatile plant and has the potential to replace all major non renewable materials. It can be used to produce such products as paper, rope and even money.
        2. The medicinal benefits of marijuana are beneficially for those suffering from prolonged pain. This would not only be beneficial to quality of life but also take strain off the health system.
        3. Hemp has also been shown to potentially replace petroleum based products such as plastic based on its 95% fuel to feed ratio.
        4. Legalising marijuana will create a further tax revenue stream in Australia.

        It’s time for this vastly misunderstood and under utilised plant to come to the forefront and take its place in Australia’s future.

      • Thanks Carl.
        It’s great to find people who are truly engaged with the possibility of finding alternatives to the power sources used currently.
        The potential for hemp to be used to produce paper and it’s ability to replace plastic addresses another issue involved in this debate (and I believe all product stewardship) which is packaging.
        Although we are focusing our campaign on the recycling of used batteries, it is important to consider real alternatives to power our devices and create products. I find the 95% fuel to feed ratio particularly exciting. It seems a very realistic and renewable alternative, see this article, apparently this kind of process as an energy source has been tested and proven since 1973!

  3. I enjoyed reading this post! Alternative solutions to power are always great. My limited memory of how batteries work is that some sort of chemical reaction occurs in them which generates energy, i.e. power. The sugar powered toy car reminded me of the classic coke & mentos experiment. I wonder if it could be used in a similar way?

    • I’m not sure about using coke and mentos for power. But the reaction or explosion (a very surgery, sticky one)OF can happen to batteries if they are left too long. In simple terms, a battery has a shell casing, an inside casing and chemicals within that. These chemicals react to the inside casing creating an electronic charge. What can happen after batteries are ‘dead’ or reacted to most of the inside casing, is that they continue to react corroding the outside shell. If you think about the bottle of coke and all the gases inside rushing out of the lid, you can get a picture of what can happen when the chemical of a battery corrodes a small hole in the outside casing.

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