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IBMs 15 hour Laptop Batteries 73

funkman writes "Here is an article on CNN about the new Electrofuel PowerPad battery from IBM. It can runs an IBM ThinkPad 560 Pentium MMX-233 notebook for 15 hours. But the battery is not for sale yet. Finally, no more carrying multiple batteries. "
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IBM has 15 hour Laptop Batteries?

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  • by Gleef ( 86 ) on Tuesday August 17, 1999 @07:23AM (#1742502) Homepage
    The company is called Electrofuel [], they're a Canadian company with as far as I know, they have no financial connection to IBM. IBM is merely one of the laptop brands they support. Check out their site, lots of good info.

  • Has anyone else noticed that about 85% of the amazing new things coming out of the industry are from IBM. I don't know where they recruit for R&D, but it must be good.

    If all the things IBM has been talking about inventing come out within the next ten years computers are going to kick about 100x more ass than they do today.

    Too bad Microsoft can't use all it's money to actually make good stuff instead of the loads of shit it pours out. MS probably spends half their R&D money making MSN Messenger work w/ AIM. There's innovation for ya Justive Dept.
  • by Jerky McNaughty ( 1391 ) on Tuesday August 17, 1999 @07:27AM (#1742504)
    Sure, the batteries hold more juice, but now everyone will just produce laptops with even more ridiculous hardware than ever before. 15" screens, DVD drives, 256 MB of RAM, ... Call me cynical, but it's just like bloated software: We have 500 MHz machines which run about the same speed with today's software as my 486 ran years ago with that software---and I still accomplish the same tasks. Heh.
  • Although this is good news, I don't know if it really warrents the term "breakthrough".

    Do the math. The standard battery got 3:04, or 184 minutes. The new battery got 15:01, or 901 minutes. What really matters though, is not the difference in run time, but the difference in run time per unit mass. The standard battery was only 0.6625 lbs, so a battery made from hooking 2.2 lbs worth of standard batteries together should be expected to run for 184*2.2/0.6625 = 611 minutes, or 10:11, compared to 15:01. So this is a 47% improvement.

    Not bad, but I don't know how they can justify the statement that they have "more than twice the energy density" just by looking at these numbers.

    Of course, these devices need to prove themselves on many other fronts before they become practical. Cost, long term reliability, charging times, and malfunction possibilities all need to be considered before endorsing a technology such as this.
  • I believe that it was Compaq who invented the battery-charging keyboard. They have small magnets under the keys or something. I'd have to go dig up the references that I saw to that keyboard to be sure that it wasn't IBM, though...
  • I don't remember about NEC (doesn't mean it didn't happen :-)), but I do remember that Apple recalled one of their lines of PowerBooks because the new batteries they were using (yes, they were Lithium-Ion) were catching on fire. They replaced that PowerBook with a similarly-equipped model that used NiMH instead until they could get all of the bugs worked-out.
  • Dang! With a name like "Electrofuel" I figured that this had to be a fuel cell system. A former employer of mine was contemplating the use of a fuel cell design to power cellphones, so I'm sure it wouldn't be a stretch to power a laptop with them. Insurance and liability issues are probably the hold-up, though. Even if internal-battery model fuel cells are made only for laptop models with no battery cover (leaving an open, unencumbered exhaust vent), some fool out there would manage to block the vent, shove something in it, or otherwise blow the damn thing up in his or her lap, then file a I-dumped-McDonalds-coffee-in-my-lap lawsuit.

    Oh, and I guess the market would be somewhat crimped if you were not permitted to carry the compressed gas cartridges required for a fuel cell aboard an airplane. Double-dang.
  • They're due out shortly and they are powered by Ethanol- imagine something that weighs about 1lb and runs for that 15 hours or more...
  • " I'd rather not risk having an explosive charge sitting next to my joy
    department. "

    Lucky you getting joy from your department.
    I'm an evolutionary dead-end and would like to donate mine to medical science, or someone who needs a new one.
  • I swear it wasn't me! The laptop wet my pants!
  • What were you planning to do with all the water that the fule cell produces? -jwb
  • Ok so it doesn't run for 3 million years off gravity waves. It doesn't power your house and it doesn't weigh less than the electrons in this note. BFD! I easily carry 2.2lbs of batteries around to get about 3hrs on my 765D. If I could throw this in, hop on a plane do a customer meeting, fly back all on one charge w/o having to carry the AC power supply w/o having to tackle people for the one outlet in the room or wander around looking for a powerstrip that is in fact, GOOD.
  • I went over to their website and poked around quite a bit and nowhere do they state the maximum discharge rate or the charging time. One of the nice things around NiCads is that they take a high charge rate and discharge rapidly. R/C Cars for example can pull 30amps out of a 9.6v pack since this type of drain will typically drain a 1700mah pack in 3-5 minutes, does that mean we could drain the 11000mah 160 in under 1/2 an hour in a typical application? Likewise, if recharge rates are high, it's better for regenerative braking and overnight charging for electric vehicles (where they only quote densities, not discharge rates as a goal)
  • I'm no Ph.D in anything, but wouldn't a 15hour laptop battery have the energy density of a good sized explosive device? How long until we hear of a laptop exploding? I know there are warnings on some batteries telling of the risks of overcharging today. I can't imagine the risks that a 15hr battery would bring along with it. My two hour life laptop battery is rated 7.5 amp/hours, for a 15hour, that would be 50+ amp/hours?

    Honestly, I'd rather have a backpack'able battery. I carry my laptop in a carrier in a backpack already, there's room for a car-battery..

    Would be nice to have. But I'd rather not risk having an explosive charge sitting next to my joy department.

  • > labtops that are more power hungry...large
    > screens, huge displays, super
    > surround sound with extra bass, huge
    > processors...the list goes on...

    ooh sounds good! i want one!
  • Cool, then you could blow up your phone by throwing it on the ground, like you can with a bic lighter? :)
  • I could probably get 1000 hours by hooking the thing to my car's battery... :-)

  • Well I never tried running it dry, but my battery meter has never read more than 3:30, even after charging for days&days. one of the new powerbooks, mind you.
  • While I love the new pbs, the price of the system you listed is a bit high. For my money ($2249 educational) I got a 333 mhz, 4gb, 64 mb. I added an extra 128 mb for $99. DVD's just not worth the extra money, afaic, and if I change my mind I can just get the vst drive later.
  • That was Compaq that patented that, not IBM.
  • Good engineering can greatly reduce this danger, kind of the opposite of dipping a Twinkie into liquid oxygen and turning it into a deadly explosive.

    But can't better engineering greatly enhance this danger by finding a way to say, aerosolize the Twinkie and turn it into a Food Air Explosive (FAE)? Or at least something you could put in a grenade launcher?


    Rats. Technology is so limited sometimes...

    King Babar

  • by ole ( 19909 )
    Cool indeed, I have the 560X 233MMX machine. :-)
  • so, how is this thing different than the external, heavy battery pack i bought from VST for my Powerbook 100 8 years ago? my guess is that it isn't.
  • Not all types of fuel cells run hot enough to cause the damage that you describe. Large scale solid oxide fuel cells for industrial purposes do make a great deal of heat by design to increase their efficiency. Proton exchange cells do not require such high operating temperatures. Also the fuel for the fuel cell need not be in a compressed gas cylinder. Any number of liquid hydrocarbon or alcohol fuels can be used.
  • Fuel Cells can in fact run on many different hydrocarbon based fuels, from gasoline to pure alcohol (of any variety). The mechanism is the same in any case. The fuel acts as a Hydrogen donator, and the free hydrogens then drive the fuel cells along with oxygen from the air. The technology centers around diffusion of ions through a semipermeable insulating membrane, usually ceramic or plastic. Hydrogen gas is one one side of the membrane and oxygen gas (plain old air really but the oxygen does the work) is on the other. The hydrogens are stripped of their electron on one side of the membrane. The electrons flow to the other side of the cell (think negative to positive in battery terms) through an external circuit (be it laptop, cell phone, pager, etc) and the hydrogen diffuses through the membrane to form water with the freely available oxygen, this closes the circuit and satisfies thermodynamics, making the whole thing work.

    Ideally hydrogen and oxygen would be the only two fuel components needed, but we of course do not live in an ideal world. Using pure oxygen does not offer enough of performance benefit to offset the tremendous costs of air liquefaction to obtain pure oxygen. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and it surrounds us in the form of water, but this hydrogen has been sequestered by oxygen. Obtaining pure hydrogen from water using electrolosis uses a great deal of energy, making it very expensive. NASA pays about $1.05 per pound of hydrogen, versus about $0.13 per pound for gasoline at my local Exxon. For this reason most commercial fuel cells use a reformer to process any number of hydrocarbon or alcohol based fuels into usable hydrogen. Hence methanol, ethanol, methane, etc. The reformation process decreases the efficeincy of the cell somewhat, but they are still much more efficient then chemical batteries.

    Fuel cells are well over 100 years old, but until recently the manufacturing technology did not exist to make them really useful. It's basically a plumbing problem. To maximize power output per volume you need to create a large surface area for diffusion. This is usually accomplished by making numerous folds in the exchange membrane. However this makes it more difficult to pipe in hyrdogen and oxygen to where they are needed. The chemistry of the devices is well understood, and it's largely a manufacturing problem now.

    The July '99 issue of Scientific American had a special section devoted to fuel cells, and features articles discussing the use of cells in portable items such as phones as well as residential and commerical scale cells for homes and offices.
  • One other note...
    "Electrofuel's super-polymer technology dedicates virtually all
    the space to the battery itself and dispenses with the usual metal
    package for supporting the battery cells, which can be as thin as
    1 millimeter"

    Scary.. A lithium cell with a 1 mm thick plastic case.. I wonder what would happen if you punctured the case with say, a pen point and shorted out the cell which was then exposed to Oxygen.. Bad things(tm) happen when Lithium metal burns..
  • By my calculations...

    Thinkpad internal 10oz battery gets 17.3 minutes/oz
    Powerpad 35oz battery gets 25 min/oz

    Bigger batteries usually have better energy density due to less packaging per unit volume.
  • My high school math teacher told us that in China it is common to drink "wood alcohol" (methanol), and, presumably because they're used to it, no ill effects result. But when he was there he had a swig or two and had to lie down for a few days.

    True? Or just Mr. Philips having us on?
  • now this means everyone will now feel compelled to stock laptops with a gig of ram 600 mhz processors, and 17 inch screens.
  • Okay, I wasn't being serious, but if you insist...

    First: I'd think that since a fuel cell ideally consumes hydrogen and oxygen (NASA versions), that the more pure (close to / highest percentage of hydrogen) the fuel the better the performance you'll receive.

    Second: (In my best 'Bones McCoy' voice) I'm a techie, not a chemist, damnit! How do you expect me to know the difference between types of alcohol?!? Besides the obvious Jack Daniels vs Skyy vs Captain Morgan vs Everclear (foom!) =P

    Third: Now that I'm done ranting, I have to admit I'm glad there are people out there who actually bothered to stay awake in HS chemistry class. Who else would check facts for those of us who don't know any better?

    Besides, I don't even know if I correctly remembered which type of fuel they were using for that fuel cell! It could have been ethanol and I just don't remember. Alternatively, why not use butane? It's readily available, inexpensive, and provides it's own pressure feed! Just 'stick a bic' into your phone, and you're good for another week! Also, it avoids the alcohol questions altogether!

  • Ditto on those fuel cells. I was quite happy to hear about the ~80 deg F units that were demonstrated as a proof of concept device -- what? about a year ago?

    IIRC, the researchers developing it were trying to run your cell phone all month on an insert pack of methanol... or was it a week...

    The important point was, for the volume the fuel cell occupied, the energy density wasn't that great, but it was enough to run a phone (about 1 watt or so). Being that heat is more of an enemy in a laptop than a phone, I'd worry about the necessity of additional cooling measures. (Can't just replace the battery in your existing laptop) The recharge times are incredible, though!

    One question: If these things run on methanol (alcohol), will you have to be over 21 to purchase fuel for your laptop? ;-P

    (Yes, I've thought of denatured alcohol! Sheesh!)

  • Interesting...

    Plus, you have to wonder what all PC World (or whoever tested it) was doing with the laptop while it was running of the glorious "little" battery.. i.e., running CD, DVD, etc. versus just playing FreeCell or xboing.
  • This new battery technology is currently in development for Apple's PowerBooks too. Currently it can be easily plugged into the PB's AC adapter jack. Future revisions will be solid full size batteries that go into the hot-swappable bays. Since the G3 draws so little electricity (five watts as opposed to the power-gluttonous Pentiums), battery time will be enormous on an Apple laptop.

    Linux user: if (nt == unstable) { switchTo.linux() }
  • Are you kidding? Those laptops are here! The Apple Powerbook G3/400 has a full-power (read as "same as desktop," unlike the castrated Mobile PIIs and AMDs) 400MHz G3 CPU with 1MB backside L2 cache running at up to 200MHz. The 14.1" Active Matrix TFT screen is driven by an 8MB ATI LT Rage Pro chipset which can drive an additional monitor for dual virtual displays. It includes a DVD drive, SCSI-2 jack, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, SVGA / S-Video Out, stereo speakers, a PCMCIA slot, 10GB HD, and two USB ports. Apple's Lithium Ion batteries carry a potential charge of up to five hours since the G3 only eats about five watts. Manufacturers of Wintel laptops probably can't take advantage of new battery technology because it's reached a point where they can't make faster systems without bolting on portable fire extinguishers or industrial strength fans. Poor Wintel.

    Linux user: if (nt == unstable) { switchTo.linux() }
  • Did I forget to mention that Apple lists the PowerBook G3 to max out at 384 MB RAM? Theoretically that means you can max it out yourself to about 512 MB RAM unless I'm mistaken. I'm not sure if there are low-profile 256 MB SO-DIMMs.

    Linux user: if (nt == unstable) { switchTo.linux() }
  • One question: If these things run on methanol (alcohol), will you have to be over 21 to purchase fuel for your laptop? ;-P

    No. Booze alcohol is ethanol. Methonol is deadly poison - and what they contaminate ethanol with to "denature" it.

    Your enzyme systems, which turn ethanol into acetaldehyde and acetic acid (vinegar), which are only mildly annoying, also turn methanol into formaldehyde and formic acid (ant toxin), which are deadly - especially to nerves. Ingest a little methanol and go blind. Even the fumes will give you a headache. I'd be a lot happier if they fueled them with ethanol - or even isopropanol (rubbing alcohol).

    On the other hand, they might run about as well on ethanol as on methanol, unmodified. We'll have to see the details of the devices once they're out.

  • It would be nice if they'd make a version that was specifically designed to be used as a source of 12V or 16V or some other voltage, and marketed as such, not as an add-on to such and such a laptop.

    As a side effect they could just make that one, and let other ppl make it work w/ whatever laptop they want. (and i'd have another choice when i get everything else in my wearable ready to be powered)
  • This product sounds good but it's not as though there haven't been external battery upgrades for portables before (such as the offerings from AER).

    The tragedy here is that vendors (and presumably their customers) are so uninterested is creating a machine that's really efficient in terms of power consumption. In fact with the latest advances from the FreePlay people (who make the wind-up radios) and real attention to power consumption, it ought to be possible to make a wind-up portable that works just fine. Yet people designing portables just don't seem to get it, and we haven't come very far, power-consumption-wise, since the Omnibook 300 or the eMate 300.

    And why can't vendors produce a reflective TFT display that lets users work without power-draining backlighting when possible? I think Nintendo could produce a better portable than today's gang of me-too engineers.
  • Anyone else notice that the article never said anything about recharging life? Maybe it's not an issue but usually those nice, dense batteries have a 'better' memory and are more difficult to recharge repeatedly.
  • I was at COMDEX/Toronto in July and saw the similar/same product there. From the pic on ElectroFuel's website it looks like the same product but since I don't remember the name of the company that was at COMDEX, I'm not sure if it is the same company. They were demoing this battery with the 16hr runtime on a Toshiba(?? don't remember). It's pretty cool if you ask me.

    Anyway, I picked it up and it felt like it was a lot less than 2lbs; maybe 1lb. Although, I did eat my Wheaties that morning...
  • Oh, so you've already designed a working prototype? Let us know when it's available.
  • Heh. How's the power drain of a typical PII-based notebook or laptop compared w/ the test machine?

    I really don't see that much of a need for 15h of time (esp. if spares can be manufactured at a not extreme cost), but if it means that a more powerful CPU can be run for a longer (and still meaningful) time, that's spiffy.
  • 15 Hours? I wonder if that is REAL time or Apple time.
  • I got an object lesson in what's really going on here when I bought an Apple Newton 2100. Now, this final Newton sure won't replace a laptop for everyone, but it did for me: email, Web surfing, word processing, spreadsheets, the works, all in something the size of a smallish trade paperback, and powered from a standard-sized LiIon battery pack that can run the Newton for between 10 and 24 hours.

    The Newton pulled this off by re-examining the architecture of a portable platform. If you make low power consumption a primary driver, instead of packing in the exact same family of peripherals that you use in a desktop platform which has (relatively) infinite power available, you get a machine which doesn't look a whole lot like today's laptops - but which also doesn't require 2.2 pounds of battery to run for 15 hours, either. The Newton 2100 has a 163 MHz processor, too, not one of those 12MHz wimpy things the other handhelds have. But this 163 MHz ARM RISC processor was designed from the ground up to use as little power as possible. The result is dramatic. It's fast when it needs to be, and the rest of the time it eats almost no power at all. Compare this to what an x86 or Pentium uses - even a "low-power" model.
  • Oh goody, now I can run that Electric Range Peripheral on my laptop and stop leaving the grease stains on my desktop...

  • Aspartame-->MeOH is why anyone who regularly consumes this artificial sweetener is an absolute moron and deserves all the neurological-related health problems they will certainly get when they grow old.
    Obviously you haven't bothered reading the source []. A quote:
    Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and the methyl ester of phenylalanine. Aspartame is completely and quickly metabolized to its two amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) and methanol through normal pathways. Amino acids are building blocks of protein. The body treats aspartame the same way it handles other foods, such as bananas, milk and hamburgers. The methanol is identical to that which we consume in much larger concentrations in fruits, vegetables and their juices, for instance. It is part of the normal diet.

    The amount of methanol produced is approximately 10% by weight. The body then converts methanol to formaldehyde and then to a metabolite called formate. Formate is then quickly eliminated by the body in the form of carbon dioxide and water. Some critics point out that methanol, an alcohol, is toxic. However, the amounts produced in metabolism are small, and are no greater than the methanol produced by the metabolism of many fruits and vegetables. For comparison's sake, the amount of methanol resulting from drinking a 12-ounce can of soda sweetened with aspartame is less than obtained from drinking an 8-ounce glass of grape juice.

    I assume that this means you've already given up grape juice, since you are so well-informed on this matter. (Basically, anyone who believes unconfirmed bullshit posted by Anonymous Cowards deserves what they get.)
  • Yes, I'd like to see your 386 play games like Half Life...
  • I believe that they use benzene to contaminate ethanol. It's not too nice either -- kills the immune system.

    On the subject of methanol poisoning (you're right about oxidation to formaldehyde and formic acid), aspartame (NutraSweet) disassociates under acidic conditions (i.e. stomach) to yield a couple of amino acids and methanol, in a one-to-one ratio. Yea!

  • ah, sorry

    Anyway, software "at the time" couldn't render shadows in real time. I prefer the newer machines.
  • Not necercerly so. It's all depends on what the battery is made of and how much current the device is pulling. There are alot of variables that could be thrown in. I haven't seen anyone really try to push silver in electrical components. Silver has a extreamly low resistance and would be pefect for alot of uses. Some car batteries have silver in them, but not that many.

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.