Recycled laptop batteries could power developing world

9 Dec 2014

Rather than discarding old laptop batteries, the lithium-ion power source could potentially power millions of homes in developing nations, according to new research.

A team of IBM researchers from India recently published a report estimating that of the 50m laptop batteries discarded each year, 70pc could have at least a year’s worth of energy potential if used four hours a day with a LED light.

According to MIT Technology Review, while the process of powering LED lights with solar panels can be achieved, and is being used in some cases, this recycling option could be a far, far cheaper source of energy.

The researchers have been working with an Indian R&D firm known as RadioStudio and began analysing the batteries by opening them up and extracting the good energy cells, discarding the poorly functioning ones, and reforming the good cells to form a refurbished power source. It was then a simple process of attaching a charging dongle to the battery, and circuitry to prevent the possibility of over heating.

The researchers then began testing their new Frankenstein batteries on five individuals in Bangalore, who live in slums, to see whether the refurbished batteries would be effective as a power source.

In the three months that has passed, the five users have reported success, with suggestions for a few alterations, particularly brighter bulbs and wires that would be rat-resistant.

IBM also claims it will most likely offer the technology free to use by anyone once it is developed.

Lithium-ion laptop battery image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic