June 1, 2005 By packing batteries with twice as much energy-storing material, engineers have developed a new generation of alkaline batteries that can double the battery life of your MP3 players, digital cameras, and other gadgets. The new batteries also produce a higher voltage -- so flashlights shine brighter, and camera flashes recover quicker.
We live in a digital world, relying on batteries to power everything from laptops to digital cameras and MP3. Standard batteries drain under the strain. Now engineers have developed a longer-lasting battery just for these digital demands.
Ben Stein likes catching picture-perfect moments on his digital camera but has one big frustration. "The battery life is not reliable," he says. "I never know when it's going to die."
But now, engineers are unveiling a new battery -- called Oxyride -- that boasts almost double the power and life of regular batteries.
"If you use this battery in a digital still camera, you'll receive -- minimum -- twice as many photos as compared to alkaline batteries," Brian Kimberlin, of Panasonic Battery Group in Secaucus, N.J., tells DBIS.
Using a finer, more concentrated material inside the battery, engineers have developed a way to fit more electrolyte -- a key ingredient for carrying electricity -- into the same size battery cell. The new battery is packed with more power and longer life.
Kimberlin says, "We're putting a little more juice in the battery, and the components are stronger and better."
The new battery also produces a higher voltage. With it, flashlights shine brighter, and camera flashes recover quicker.
"If something lasted twice as long, that maybe means I'll have half as many worries," Stein says. And for him, using it may mean not missing any more great shots.
The Oxyride battery is also ideal for music players and digital games. It hits the shelves this summer, but will cost about 20 percent more than regular alkaline batteries.
BACKGROUND: Matsushita Electric Industrial has developed a battery that delivers 1.5 times the power of a regular alkaline battery, and is cheaper than the lithium batteries used in many electronics devices.
HOW IT WORKS: Any battery converts chemical energy into electricity. There are two ends, called terminals: one is positively charged, while the other is negatively charged. Opposite charges attract. So when these two ends are connected by a metallic wire, electrons will flow from the negatively charged terminal to the positively charged one. This flow makes an electric current in the wire. The current can be used for power, simply by attaching a light bulb, for example.
A battery continually produces new electrons at the negative terminal from a series of chemical reactions. So the battery essentially acts like a pump, pulling electrons from the negative end of the conducting wire and pushing them into the positive end. A battery only holds a certain amount of reactants, and once those are used up, there can be no more chemical reactions, and the battery is dead.
ADVANTAGES: The voltage of a battery varies depending on the kinds of metals and chemicals used. Duracell and Energizer brands use alkaline combined with zinc and manganese oxide. Laptop computers and cell phones use lithium-ion batteries. Oxyride batteries maintain higher voltage and output longer because they use oxy-nickel hydride, along with finer grain graphite and manganese dioxide. The company has figured out how to blend these ingredients so more can be stuffed inside a battery. An Oxyride-powered digital camera, for example, can take twice as many pictures as one powered by a standard lithium battery.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.