Intelís Latest Chips: Itís All About (Low) Power - Donít Forget the Batteries
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Mooreís Law is totally nonexistent when it comes to batteries. Their basic structure hasnít changed in decades. Theyíre containers for chemicals. The chemicals react to release electrons that want to escape their container. Connect the battery to a device, and these electrons flow out as an electric current. In a way, itís very low-tech, and therefore not susceptible to the same kinds of improvements as chips. Thus, they havenít been able to keep up with the demands of microprocessors, which, until fairly recently, seemed to increase their needs for power with every new generation.
How can you improve battery life? ďYou can change the chemicals,Ē explains Tony Mazzola, a technical manager with battery maker Energizer. But the size of the battery itself limits the size of your ďgas tank,Ē in effect. Manufacturers can make a bigger battery to increase the size of the gas tank and extend the batteryís life Ė but larger batteries are bulkier, heavier, and less portable, which somewhat defeats the whole purpose of battery operated electronic devices.
Battery makers are working on innovations that will let them ďcheatĒ this nasty equation. For instance, Energizerís new e2 battery releases a slow, steady stream of power, rather than the flood that is more typical for batteries. This kind of power release is better for certain electronic devices (such as digital cameras) and has clear implications for how long the battery will last Ė indeed, the e2 battery is said to be able to power digital cameras to take up to seven times as many pictures as standard batteries, under ideal conditions.
NEC also came up with a new battery. Called an organic radical battery, or ORB, it features new chemical combinations, which make it lightweight yet able to give off enough energy to power a PC. It would make a good back up battery, but hasnít made it into any products yet. Other companies are looking at other technologies, such as fuel cells. These kinds of batteries are powered by a refillable chemical, much as you would refill a lighter. But, according to Kevin Wentzel, a technical manager with Hewlett-Packard, fuel cell batteries are ďjust nowhere near ready for prime time.Ē
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