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Israeli researchers at Technion charged up by their better battery

NEW YORK, Aug. 22 (JTA) — Prepare for a new breed of battery-powered bunnies. Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a high-energy “Super-Iron” battery that delivers power for longer periods and is more environmentally friendly than alkaline batteries. According to the Haifa-based institute, some 60 billion batteries are used around the globe each year, with much of today’s demand coming from “high-drain electronics” such as laptop computers and cellular phones. Despite the need for safe, inexpensive, higher capacity batteries, the market has been dominated by batteries using manganese dioxide, a material dating back 130 years, the Technion’s research team wrote in the journal Science this month. Their new class of batteries is made of an uncommon form of iron combined with oxygen, called ferrate, and can store 50 percent more energy than conventional batteries of comparable size. “A conventional AAA-size alkaline battery may last only a few minutes at a high drain rate,” lead researcher Stuart Licht told The New York Times, “but under the same conditions a AAA super-iron battery discharges for well over an hour.” Morever, the Technion’s “energetically rich” batteries are rechargeable, made of inexpensive material and can be used in the same way as AA or AAA batteries. Plus, the super-iron batteries break down into “green” iron dust, which is “relatively environmentally benign”compared to the toxic discharge of many batteries currently being used. Disturbed by the wasteful use of batteries in high-tech gadgets, Licht told the Times, he set off to find “materials to cut down on this wasteful disposal, compatible with existing battery systems, and which are environmentally ‘clean’ materials.” Licht said it is too early to predict when the super-iron batteries will be available to consumers or at what price.

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