Laptop battery on its last legs? Don't get rid of it just yet - it could still be repurposed into a new form of low cost energy storage.
When the batteries in our laptops, mobiles and other gadgets stop providing us with enough energy, we usually end up disposing of them as electronic waste. But they don't stop working completely from one day to the next - instead they get continuously weaker over time. So although a battery might no longer be strong enough to keep a certain piece of tech running - your laptop, for example - it could still be used to run a more energy-efficient one, or be connected together with other batteries to create a bigger storage device.
This is where Aceleron comes in. The company has come up with a way of testing lithium ion batteries and identifying which ones have sufficient capacity. These are then given a second life, with several being clustered together to make new low-cost storage. These packs are somewhat bulky, but are can still serve a purpose - for example as energy storage for solar panels, as battery packs for electric bicycles or wheelchairs, or even as backup power sources instead of diesel generators.
As part of a test carried out by London's Brunel University, batteries from unused laptops were collected and tested - only four of the 148 batteries tested were completely unusuable. On average, the others still showed around 89 per cent of their original capacity, which meant they were able to recover a whole four kWh of energy.
The lithium ion battery market is growing fast and the energy density of the batteries also increasing ever more rapidly. Panasonic/Sanyo, one of the leading manufacturers, wants to work together with Tesla to multiply its capacity by five, creating a total production capacity of 35GWh by 2018.
While both smartphones and computers run on that kind of battery, the demand for vehicle batteries is set to overtake that of consumer electronics by as early as next year.
This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of the original article which first appeared on our English-language site.