Better Battery Breakthrough?


Army logistics used to be "bullets, beans and bandages" but now adds a fourth B, for batteries. The Army estimates that unless something is done, soldiers will been to carry 20 pounds of batteries in their kit, and has launched a Wearable Power competition to solve the problem.

Now, Idaho-based startup Motion 2 Energy says that it has a solution to the problem: a generator/battery combo, scalable from vehicle-mounted power down to the micro- and nano- machine level, that generates power from movement or even vibration.

The technology is similar in principle to the Seiko Kinetic watch or the "shaker" flashlight. A magnet inside the power cell is free to move within a coil, and does so as the cell itself moves. But business development manager Regan Rowe says that advances in magnetic materials and design and control technology do two things: they generate power more efficiently and do so from smaller movements. Power gets produced even if the coil moves through one wire in the coil. The "boffin" behind the technology is Eric Yarger of the Idaho National Laboratory.

Overall, the system is three to seven times more efficient than earlier motion-based generating systems, and M2E believes that in normal movement, a hip-worn M2E battery will provide as much output as a conventional battery, but will not have to be replaced and recharged.

So far, prototypes have been treadmill-tested. M2E is building customized prototypes for military testing, early next year. Rowe says the company has not decided whether to enter the Wearable Power competition, because its goals are written around fuel-cell and similar systems. However, the company's strategy is to aim at the high-cost, low-volume military market first - and then move into commercial markets.

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-- Christian

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