IBM Research has conceived a plan to use old, depreciated laptop batteries for applications such as lighting. The technology used would be especially useful and inexpensive in areas with limited or unreliable access to electricity.
IBM’s research describes the UrJar, a charging system in which a number of old laptop batteries are reused to store energy. The researchers state that although these lithium-ion batteries are no longer good enough to power laptops, they are often still good enough for less critical applications; about 70 percent of the batteries that have been written off could be reused for lighting an LED lamp, running a fan or serving as a USB charger.
The UrJars that IBM built had an average capacity of 50Wh. Before that, depreciated lithium-ion cells from Lenovo Thinkpad laptops were used, which are charged when electricity is available. The UrJars were then able to provide power for an average of four hours when no electricity was available.
According to the researchers, the technology used is useful in areas where access to electricity is limited or where the power supply is unstable. IBM conducted its research in India, a country where electricity supplies lag behind in many areas. By giving old laptop batteries a second life, for example, the owners of small shops could stay open longer in the evening and night because there is light. In addition, the researchers point to the fact that the reuse of depreciated lithium-ion batteries can potentially help reduce the use of more environmentally unfriendly lead-acid batteries.