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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New battery can recharge itself using sunlight

By Tuan C. Nguyen


A team of scientists are hoping to give those old school re-chargeable batteries a solar-powered makeover.
Mention solar technology to people and for many it still brings to mind big clunky panels housed at sprawling industrial facilities. But recent advances in solar cells has already allowed the technology to be miniaturized and integrated into a variety of everyday household products. Last year, the Japanese company Sanyo was honored with an IF Design award at the CeBIT technology conference for a developing a dual solar-powered light and USB charger. Now comes a battery prototype that can be recharged simply by being left out in the sun.
The researchers are calling their concept the Light Catcher, which is basically a photoelectronic battery comprised of tiny anti-reflective solar cells that soak up energy from the sun. A transparent encasing protects the battery while allowing sunlight to shine through. The batteries come in AA and AAA sizes and can be inserted into most portable electronics, anything from remote controls to toys. There’s also the option to power electronics using a 3.5mm jack.

The innovators behind the “Light Catcher” concept are Yung-Hsaing Chang, Ming-Shien Lin and Chang-Ting Lu. The team developed the batteries as an entry into this year’s iF Design awards, given out each year by the Hanover-based firm iF International Forum Design.

While miniaturized solar technology is still a ways from meeting the rigorous energy demands of many portable electronics like laptops and Smartphones, such advances are still quite promising. The amount of energy that can be tapped from sunlight is enormous considering that the current technology converts only a small percentage into use-able electricity.
Photo: Yanko Design