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Hardware Technology

New Battery Technology Powers For 12 Years 128

wellington map writes "University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists say they are developing a new lithium battery technology capable of making batteries smaller, last longer and, soon, accept a charge from outside the body without the need for surgery. These organosilicon batteries are projected to power tiny implantable devices for more than 12 years."
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New Battery Technology Powers For 12 Years

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  • Blegh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FireballX301 ( 766274 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:01AM (#13720280) Journal
    MADISON, Wis., Oct. 3 (UPI) -- University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists say they are developing super-charged tiny lithium batteries to help treat nervous system and other disorders.

    Key word there, 'developing'. The article gives basically no information at all about how it works.

    I remember a story about human-powered pacemakers and such though - did those pan out? Seems that those would be more useful than these low-current batteries.
    • Re:Blegh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:09AM (#13720298)
      Also the summary doesn't make sense without the word 'pacemaker' in there somewhere. I had to actually read the article!
    • Re:Blegh. (Score:1, Interesting)

      by DrEldarion ( 114072 )
      They should make batteries that get recharged from the static electricity people build up. Low battery? Wear a sweater.
      • Re:Blegh. (Score:3, Informative)

        by ikkonoishi ( 674762 )
        This should be insightful not funny. Those things [yahoo.com] can build up quite a charge.
        • Re:Blegh. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Elrac ( 314784 ) <.moc.zcirtoms. .ta. .lrac.> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:07AM (#13720976) Homepage Journal
          The grandparent is mildly funny but not a bit insightful, probably because the poster is unaware of the physics behind static electricity.

          First, the idea of using static electricity to power devices inside a human is pretty hard to implement because in order to be useful, a device would need to be connected to both of the mutually charged components, and that potential difference will have to be transformed into DC at the battery's voltage of around 1-9 V.

          Whichever piece of clothing is on the person's skin will have the same potential as that person, whose body is highly conductive as far as static electricity is concerned. That takes care of one side, as our device is already very well connected to the human.

          So how will one gain access to the charge on the other piece of clothing? Have the person wear a layer of tinfoil over the outer garment? Sounds less than practical in the summertime. Have him drag a metal chain over any carpets he walks over? Folks, we're trying to improve quality of life here, not worsen it.

          Now, having a charge of a few microcoulombs with a potential difference of maybe 20,000 volts, how are we going to transform it to a usefully large current at battery voltage? Hint: Transformers need AC to work, not DC. The microelectronics used to chop up DC into AC hate high voltages.

          There's a reason why there are no (or virtually no) applications that use lightning or static electricity as an energy source.
          • Hint: Transformers need AC to work, not DC.

            I'm no EE, but I though transformers only needed a changing electromagnetic field to work, not strictly an AC field. If so, you would really only need to pulse a dc source into a transformer coil to get it to work, kind of like how automobile ignition coils work... (remember kids, a dc pulse is one half of an ac sweep). Then dump the output into an cap/resistor to even out the pulses and you have dc current.

          • What are things that are driven by lightning or static electricity? The only things that run off of those that I can think of are secondary, like the UPS industry, anti static bag manufactures, and lightning rod installers.
          • There's a reason why there are no (or virtually no) applications that use lightning or static electricity as an energy source.
            Unless the lightning provides 1.21 gigawatts.
        • I would like that a lot, since I seem to carry a hefty static charge regardless of what I'm wearing. Every conductive thing I touch shocks me (frequently audibly), to the point where I subconsciously flinch when I reach for light switches, doorknobs, or laptops (laptops hate me). Other things get me too, but those are the worst frequent offenders. For some reason, the shocks have never damaged or killed any electronics except for digital watches (life expectancy of about 2 days before they go nuts, with
    • What an enormously crappy article. There is absolutely nothing new in there. Everybody that is a little bit tech-savvy know that new and better batteries are developed all over the world, and you don't have to be a genius to come up with the idea that charging outside the body would be very handy. Blegh indeed!
      • Er, you may not need to be a genius to work out that it would be useful, but you have to be slightly clever to actually develop the technology. Look at me! I'm a genius because I think that star-trek type transporter technology could be useful!
        • but you have to be slightly clever to actually develop the technology

          With 'slightly' being the operative word. I've been using a toothbrush [oralb.com] for the past ten years or so that uses this 'technology'. Power from outside the body? woop-di-doo! Any 11 year old with an electric toothbrush and a clue could figure that out in minutes!

          (Those electric toothbrushes are sealed units, they use an inductive charging system, a little coil of fine copper wire in the base of the toothbrush, another coil a few millimetres a

          • so they'll just have a little recharge point on their body huh =P I thought there was maybe going to be a more elegant solution? I know it's not hard just to connect up some wires to recharge a battery, but I thought this was going to be something more clever.
            • No, the electric toothbrush mentioned didn't have any contact points. It used induction to transfer power between the base and the toothbrush body, which then charged a small battery inside the brush. This can work perfectly well through a couple of layers of plastic.
              • very cool, though you have to admit that the human body is different from a couple of layers of plastic, if only because you could get sued if something goes scwewy ;)
      • I've heard of this technology its called RFID
        Radio frequency induce voltage to tiny device, stored in small capacitor/lithium battery.

        and as a side effect, read the firmware health of the pacemaker.
    • Expect to see this device available around the time duke nukem forever comes out.
    • Yes. History has shown that anytime the word 'developing' shows up, the idea is total nonsense and will never work. /sarcasm
  • I never thought about the need of batteries before, but of course! My question is, what sort of batterylife do todays "versions" have?
    • by tsa ( 15680 )
      About 6 years for a pacemaker. And by that time technology has advanced so much that you want a new pacemaker, so they never change the batteries in pacemakers, but they just put a new pacemaker in.
      • They couldn't change those anyway, as pacemakers have to be a single sealed unit covered in plastic, minus one or two exposed placed for leads.

        Make them openable and you're seriously comprimised them.

        • That's another thing, yes. But even recheargable batteries don't make much sense in pacemakers. A pacemaker guy from my hospital told me once there have been nuclear-powered pacemakers that could go for 25 years. They were soon abandoned of course, but most of the time these PM's were taken out long before the end of their lifes because the patient was helped better with a new PM.
    • For current batch of high-load implanted devices - neuro stimulators (for pain management), rechargeable is all the rage these days. The advent of rechargeable resulted in extended product life from 2-3 years to 10 to 25 years. Of course, this is with through-the-skin recharge, so it is not quite the same thing. In a lower load situation (like pace making), rechargeable would have a life far beyond the practicle life of the rest of the device....
    • Most modern pacemakers can last 8-10 years before a generator change depending on whether a patient is "pacer-dependent" or not. Obviously, if they are pacing all the time, you will see a more rapid drop in voltage on device interrogation. Pacemaker implantation and generator change is a minor procedure- typically outpatient and perhaps with an overnight stay. After all, the pacemaker itself is in a subcutaneous pocket near the shoulder and can be accesses with a simple incision/dissection with local ane
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...'built-in' penis pump!
  • Battery Lifetime (Score:3, Insightful)

    by divide overflow ( 599608 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:11AM (#13720307)
    From the article:

    A critical advantage of the new battery technology is lifespan: "If you're going to implant these things, you want a (battery) lifetime of at least 10 years," said West, whose organosilicon batteries are projected to power tiny implantable devices for more than 12 years.

    I presume that "10 year minimum lifetime" is the typical lifespan of the the receiver of the implantable device.
  • by Peregr1n ( 904456 ) <ian.a.ferguson@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:14AM (#13720319) Homepage
    Information on this from the university itself can be found here [wisc.edu] (not much info, but more technical than the article)
  • by Cow Jones ( 615566 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:30AM (#13720367)
    I'll gladly implant my iPod mini if that means it will run for 12 years.
    And it won't event scratch if I nudge it between my liver and stomach!
  • by No Salvation ( 914727 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @04:32AM (#13720374) Homepage Journal
    What I want to see are giant Telsa coils at airports, restaurants, etc. that shoot bolts of electricity out and recharge people's pacemakers. What could possibly go wrong?
  • ...for my remote control, watches, and wallclock.
  • 1. Build an induction coil inside a plush chair
    2. Choose an unpleasant relative (who has a remotely-rechageable implant).
    3. Offer the chair (and step back).
    5. Sue the battery manufacturer!!
    (Now, if you pool your implant-malfunctioning relatives with other parties you can do class-action suit instead)
  • "New Battery Technology Powers For 12 Years ...developing a new lithium battery technology capable of making batteries smaller, last longer and, soon, accept a charge from outside..."

    Are they sure they want to be putting Apple out of business like that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:04AM (#13720446)
    Buying & changing batteries for people like me with a cochlear implant is a major pain - something like this would be fantastic.
  • by dascandy ( 869781 ) <dascandy@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:07AM (#13720453)
    What about preserving power in a capacitor and using a coil to recharge it from background radiation? By now people are constantly in a sort of electromagnetic field, so if you switch between two of them you should be able to generate a current, with a few proper diodes etc. you could charge a capacitor with that... given people that are still alive and enough mobile phone use, it would work?

    You might just get into a fight with the people next to you, since you're in a way using their mobile phone battery to reload your pacemaker. On the other hand, calling in public and in hospitals would become accepted and even encouraged.
    • No, this won't work for a couple reasons:

      First of all, a coil only generates current when the magnetic flux through the coil is changing. Having 2 coils embedded in a static magnetic field and switching between them will get you nothing. The field has to be changing.

      Second of all, the background magnetic field is low enough that a coil you could implant, moving at speeds that a human body could withstand would generate far less than the 0.2V needed to forward bias a Schottky diode, so you have no way to rec
      • >>First of all, a coil only generates current when the magnetic flux through the coil is changing.

        so all a person would have to do is walk in circles around people on their cell phone!

        that solves several problems at once! first you get power for your pace maker, you get exercise, and you annoy the heck out of people on cell phones!
    • This does not work particularly well.

      First, RF energy is fairly weak. Second, it is readily absorbed by tissues and water. Third, even the lowest forward voltage rectifiers still need more than 0.1V to conduct while antenna voltages are typically under 0.01V.

      It would be possible to use a high-Q resonnant circuit to boost the voltage to a rectifiable level but such circuits are effective only over a very small frequency band which pretty much requires a tuned source, effectively ruling out most random extern
      • If you assume that the system loads at a specific frequency (say, 1800 or 1900 MHz), using some smd or something version of diodes for lower power loss (you can't convince me that labs work with the same amount of resistance as the DIYer uses), you can make it as a part-loader. Otherwise, you might reserve a given frequency only for home charging, which would just include a charger-device that emits those waves through your skin toward the device (with some form of shield) without frying you outright, but j
        • Inductive charging itself is nothing new, is very simple and fairly efficient. All it requires is close range and decent alignment. IIRC, inductive chargers are already in use for some artificial hearts but they still need to change the battery every year or so due to premature capacity degradation from continuous high-drain operation. Without inductive chargers, people with artificial hearts would have to be opened up to replace batteries at least twice a week.

          As far as diode 'losses' go, this is not about
      • Implant the pickup coil of v. fine wire under the scalp just above whichever ear the patient most likes to use their mobile phone on.
  • When they're ready, I'll buy 6 (or 8?) of them and put them into my Sega Game Gear!
    Finally, it will last longer than an hour without changing batteries!!
  • Don't get your hopes up on this actually making it in some form to the consumer market. Those wonderful little double-a batteries you buy constantly have a huge upcharge on them. That's why when you go to any electronics store (I typically saw a $9 price slapped on a cost of $1.40) you'll ALWAYS get asked if you want to buy their brand of way overpriced batteries, no matter what the product is. These things make businesses profit, they will keep the old style as long as they have a breath left in them.
  • May be ok for humans (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    But I used to work for a large battery company, and I can guarentee you they will always ensure they have a short life.

    More batteries to buy.

    And about 90% of a battery is recyclable...Scrap places will buy them for around $1 per battery.

  • Step backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dustrider ( 797233 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @05:34AM (#13720520)
    Best thing I've seen for implanted devices, such as cochlear implants is an article from two years ago by some japanese researchers than managed to build a fuel cell based on blood.

    It mimics the processes of mitochondria in human cells, i.e. uses glucose and O2 to create some form of ionisation.

    So why have a battery that expires in 12 years when you could just have something that is indeffinately powered by your own body processes, and lose a little weight in the process.

    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/08/03/10598492 78131.html [smh.com.au]
    • Re:Step backwards (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rufty_tufty ( 888596 )
      That was always a weight loss idea of mine...
      First you need to implant a couple of discrete tubes into a major vein and artery (how you stop the body from forming clots in them when not in use though I don;t know).
      Then when you want to loose weight you wear this shirt that plugs into these tubes. The jacket burns the glucose and O2 and radiates the resulting heat keeping you warm at the same time.

      If too many deposits build up then it's easier to buy a new jacket than replace an implant.

      <silly voice>
    • Re:Step backwards (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jamesh ( 87723 )
      Along the same lines, it seems like they have accomplished two mutually unnecessary feats. If it can be charged from outside the body, then it hardly needs to last 12 years does it?

      If you created a battery that should be charged every 12 months (but would run for, say, 36 months in case you were a bit slack about your yearly checkup+recharge), it could be much smaller than the 12 year version. And I for one would feel much better knowing I wasn't carrying around so much lithium.

      Make sure you don't use the c
      • Re:Step backwards (Score:2, Informative)

        by BlueTrin ( 683373 )
        I think that means that you can charge it during these 12 years without loss in intensity or quality in the signal delivered. But not that you don't need to charge it for 12 years.
      • They haven't created a battery that stores enough energy for 12 years, they have a created a battery that can be recharged for 12 years.

        So instead of having surgery to replace their battery every 3 or 4 years or whatever, patients only need the surgery every 12 years, which is clearly a huge advance.
    • Even if the system developped by japanese researchers could, in theory, works indefinitely, the pieces itself can break or decay.

      So unless the system itself can self maintain, your device is limited by the lifetime of its components.
    • Those damn inductive devices are dangerous, but recharge without surgery is important, since most people won't tolerate a plug. I have an alcohol fuel cell that resides in my stomach to power my pacemaker, and I don't get so many DUIs now. You can recognize us by our copious CO2 belches. It's a lot better than the old days when I had to swallow the extension cord & then plug it all in.

      Patent pending.
  • by Timberwolf0122 ( 872207 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @06:41AM (#13720697) Journal
    But when are they going to get me a laptop that can last 12 years bewteen charges!?

    Instead of lithium organo-what ever why not use decay from an alpha source with a long (20+years) halflife? the alpha emmissions can be shielded by a modest tianium/glass shell
    • I'm interested in this concept. Can you explain more or point me in the right direction?

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:52AM (#13720928) Journal
        I think the parent poster was slightly confused, and was thinking about beta, not alpha emitters. A beta particle is an electron, and betavoltics involves methods of capturing these and generating current from them. This kind of power plant is useful in things like space probes, since it has a very long life. Unfortunately, the amount of current is fairly low. They might possibly be able to power something like a laptop in conjunction with a conventional battery - use the chemical battery for 6-hours a day, and have it trickle-charged by the betavoltic battery overnight. This would allow someone to take a laptop far away from civilisation and still have it working.

        An other down side for betavoltic batteries is that they never actually stop generating power during their usable life span. A normal battery only `generates' electricity while it is connected to a circuit - a betavoltic cell constantly generates power which must be either used or wasted (although there's no reason you couldn't run the CPU in low-power mode running SETI@Home or something when the chemical battery is full).

        The other main down side is that they gradually lose power over time. Every half-life (12.3 years for Tritium), the power output halves, meaning it will take twice as long to recharge your chemical battery. Of course, it is possible to extract the remaining tritium from the cell and re-use it, but this will require effort (and energy).

        • Space probe RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators) are just that..thermoelectric. Not betavoltaic. Despite the fact that Pu-238 undergoes beta decay, the beta particles are simply used to generate heat, not directly converted to electric current. Typically you have 72 little pellets of Pu-oxide each wrapped in Indium, and these maintain a steady state 700 C temperature difference to ambient, allowing even inefficient Peltier junctions to convert the heat differential into a steady 400 Watts or so (
    • probably because people are afraid of the word "nuclear"
      • It's not for nothing that the word "nuclear" does not appear in "magnetic resonance imaging," since it would scare off the laypeople, whereas scientists aren't going to panic at the name "nuclear magnetic resonance", i.e., the same damn thing.
    • Nuclear pacemakers have actually been considered, and discarded for three reasons:

      1. Have you ever tried to get the NRC and the FDA to work together? And don't forget these people have to be able to leave the country.

      2. Worries about shielding. Pacemakers can, and do, get damaged.

      3. Possiblity of a race of mutant zombies arising from the corpses of people who had nuclear pacemakers.

  • and, soon, accept a charge from outside the body without the need for surgery

    How do they do that? Do they implant a receptacle for a Nokia charger into your skin?
  • Story is a non-story (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:22AM (#13720832)
    Some university PR hack had a quota to fulfill for last month. This isnt really news. Anybody can try at "developing" a better battery. And recharging from outside the body has nothing to do with the battery-- it's been succesfully done for decades with a little coil of wire. Absolutely nothing to see here.
  • There have been several products that allow you to recharge things like cell phones and iPods wirelessly. Here is one I just saw yesterday:

    http://arstechnica.com/journals/thumbs.ars/2005/10 /2/1401 [arstechnica.com]

    I guess the big deal with this "announcement" is the projected battery life. The wireless charging aspect is existing technology, and makes sense when you consider their target market - implantables.
  • Lithium? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blitzenn ( 554788 ) * on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:26AM (#13721079) Homepage Journal
    Sounds good until the first one leaks and kills it's host. Lithium in the human body is a dangerous substance to mess with. To make a battery out of it, requires that you cause it to become unstable, shed electrons. Lithium also makes a great propellant and explosive. Lithium is also used as a drug. Unfortunately it's use is precluded in patients with significant renal or cardiovascular disease, severe debilitation or dehydration, or sodium depletion, since the risk of lithium toxicity is very high in such patients. These are exactly the same patients that would be candidates to receive such devices. The risk of leakage may be very small, but the toxicity associated with such an event would be fatal in most of the patients that would be receiving the device. I highly doubt that they could ever receive approval for the battery with these facts being known.
  • I have had electricity coming out of the power points on my walls for a lot longer than that!

    Seriously, I make a point never to use disposable batteries if I can avoid it. Fossil fuels suck balls, but mains power is still more efficient than any battery technology will ever be.
    • Sorry WRONG

      do you realize how much energy is lost on all those ac/dc converters running 24x7 all over your house.

      if you really want to save energy use lithium rechargeables, then unplug the charger.
      • If it is a transformer power supply, then a small amount of energy is used in remagnetising the steel core once each half-cycle while the switch of the wall socket is on. If it is a switched mode power supply, then a small amount of energy is wasted due to leakage in the capacitor {which of course will only increase over time; until the metal film resistor in series with the diode bridge finds new - but brief - gainful employment as a fuse}. Again, only as long as the switch is on at the wall.

  • Misleading story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:51AM (#13721219) Journal
    Once again we see a story that is misleading, probably in an attempt to simply get accepted by the Slashdot editors.

    The battery has a lifetime of 12 years, meaning that it can be discharged and charged enough times to last for 12 years before it needs to be replaced. In similar terms, my notebook battery lasts around 2 years. After 2 years of normal use the battery's capacity has been reduced to the point I need a new one.

    Dan East
  • Recharging (Score:3, Informative)

    by LinuxInDallas ( 73952 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @09:02AM (#13721299)
    Well, there are already rechargeable medical implantable devices based on Li-Ion on the market today. I'm not certain why the article seems too imply this is not already going on.
  • I wonder how dependant on the body's natural charge this '12 years' is. I know some people who can wear a watch for a couple years on one battery while other people will kill a watch battery in a month or two. By those numbers, some people would be able to use one of these things for 20 years while someone else will barely live off them for 12 months.
    • Actually, pacemakers already depend greatly on the person who has them, but not for that reason.

      Some people have slightly damaged natural pacemakers, and some have ones that are essentially dead, with many in between.

      The ones that are only slightly damaged can be triggered by a very low voltage from a pacemaker. Slightly more than the heart itself can provide, but enough.

      Many of those people, like me, can also live without our pacemakers. Our heartrate just drops to about 40 beats a minutes. So my pacema

  • Our property management company must have seen a comercial on tv. They insist we use 10 year lithium batteries in our smoke detectors. They were brand new detectors when we started and they've never even been triggered by smoke. We get two years at the most out of one. Three replacements in five years. They are junk for longevity. This isnt just one detector. All three kill these batteries.
  • Medtronic's neurostimulator (for pain treatment) lasts at least 9 years. The Japanese government sponsored the development of a rechargable pacemaker, but found that IC and manufacturing advances made devices more than 5 years old obselete. Recently, advances in data storage and wireless distance/data transfer have given new features to mature treatments.

    http://www.medtronic.com/neuro/restore/noFlash.htm l [medtronic.com]
  • Imagine! they invented an inductive-charged device!

    My --ing razor has --ing been working that way since 1997. That's no --ing innovation.

    (sorry Mr.Pratchett)
  • University of Wisconsin mad scientists say they are developing a new lithium battery technology
  • These organosilicon batteries are projected to power tiny implantable devices for more than 12 years.
    Now that's going to make some powerful and longstanding boobs!
  • I for one welcome our new battery operated overlords!

    (Well, for the first twelve years anyways, we'll see who gets the last laugh then!)

  • Why, my pacemaker has been running for 12 yNO CARRIER
  • Hey editors - some time during the last year, Slashdot added a "Power" section for stories like this.

    Actually I would have entitled it "Energy" but most people confuse the terms anyway.

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