Tag Archives | Power

An iPhone Battery Case That’s Also a Universal Power Pack for Portable Gadgets

My first impulse is to compare Third Rail Mobility’s new Smart Battery and Slim Case to Mophie‘s Juice Pack, the best-known name in iPhone battery cases.Third Rail’s system does, indeed, provide an alternative way to extend an iPhone 4’s battery life. But this clever system goes way beyond that. I tried a review unit provided by the company.

The case itself looks pretty much like any nice two-piece snap-on black iPhone 4 case, except:

  • The section below the dock connector is a bit taller than usual and sports a Micro USB connector;
  • There’s an area on the back with electrical contacts.

The contacts on the case’s back are there because you can connect the battery there like a backpack. It’s a 1250 MaH unit, so it should come close to doubling the standard life of the iPhone’s own 1420 MaH battery. You can simply use the phone with the battery in place–it looks a little strange, but I found it comfortable enough in the hand–or attach the battery only when you need it, such as when the iPhone’s own battery is about to croak.

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Sony Prototype Powers TV Wirelessly

AC ScreamDuring the 1890’s, inventor Nikola Tesla toyed with the possibility of transferring electricity (safely) through the air. Tesla’s vision has become reality in laboratories within the past decade, and today, the IDG News Service is reporting that Sony has devised a wireless prototype to power its television sets.

The technology, called magnetic resonance, achieves power transfer by feeding energy from a power supply into a coil of wires to produce a magnetic field. A current is transferred when a secondary cool falls within that field. Sony used the technique to send 100 volts of electricity 50 centimeters to “plug in” a wireless 22-inch television set.

Other metallic devices that fall within the field will not become significantly electrified, according to the company. The range can be extended to 80 cm with passive relay units, according to IDG.

Sony’s power system is hardly unique. In 2007, a team of MIT researchers was able to power a light bulb from as far as 7 feet away by using magnetic resonance. But there was considerable energy loss with only 40 percent efficiency.

The research was spun off into company called WiTricity, and it is planning a commercial rollout of the technology – once it is refined. If Sony’s experiment is any indication, those refinements could take awhile.

Sony is also tackling the efficiency issue. While its prototype was 80 percent efficient, additional energy loss occurred after the transmission was made to the secondary coil. One quarter of the original 80 watts was lost.

With further improvements, the energy loss could become more acceptable, but I don’t believe in wasting electricity (and potentially increasing carbon emissions) for aesthetics. If the technology could be used to eliminate the need for toxic batteries to power portable devices, Sony could be onto something. For now, though, a power cord does the job just fine for televisions.


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The Quest For Wireless Power Continues

Dave and I saw several demos back at CES showing off wireless power solutions for cord-free gadget charging. However, here I am nine months later still lugging a zillion power cables in my computer bag. (Though Dave does have a solar-powered Bluetooth headset.) Unfortunately, universal wireless power doesn’t seem any closer to reality today than it did back in January. But, as if to argue the point, a press release landed in my inbox announcing a new commercial deal between two “wire-free power” companies, WildCharge and WiProwess. WiProwess now has a licensing agreement allowing it to help companies integrate WildCharge technology into their products.

The interesting part of the news is not so much the licensing agreement as the potential applications of it. I asked the WiProwess folks to send along further details on product implementations, and got a range of applications for car, hotel, and office environments. Much like luxury cars today get embedded GPS apps, iPod docks, and even Wi-Fi, I can easily see an automotive brand partnering up with a company like WiProwess to bring wire-free charging pads to front-seat consoles. Similarly, a high-end hospitality or office furniture partner might use wire-free charging to boost its brand image. The critical thing here is getting distribution partners so that wire-free power as a technology doesn’t have to sell itself one consumer at a time.

Of course, the whole wire-free proposition will be a lot easier to market once it doesn’t include proprietary technology and a lot of adapter tips. But if you’re an early adopter with some extra cash, check out the products available now from the WildCharge website. (David Pogue liked the hardware he tested late last year.) A WildCharge Charge Pad now goes for $50 alone, or for $70 or $80 when bundled with a gadget skin or adapter.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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Lithium Battery Breakthrough Cuts Charge Time Down to Seconds

Energizer BunnyImagine that you could charge a car battery as quickly as you fill up a tank of gasoline today. Stop imagining –it has become possible. Researchers have developed a new lithium battery technology that can charge and discharge in a matter of seconds.

The journal Nature is reporting that Byoungwoo Kang and Gerbrand Ceder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a glass-like Lithium mixture for electrodes that allows a charge to be rapidly stored inside of a battery. The battery is designed so that lithium ions move more freely, moving the charge in and out of storage from cathode to electrolyte. The material also retains its capacity through charge cycles.

However, don’t expect laboratory performance at home just yet. Ars Technica has noted that the battery are not entirely compatible with today’s electric grid. For example, a cell phone battery would drawn 360W in ten seconds– for a single charge. Cue the blown circuit breakers.

I’m certain that some happy medium will be reached, and we can all look forward to more advanced batteries in our electronics. This breakthrough eliminates many of the restrictions that today’s batteries place on device manufacturers, and will should lead to more powerful mobile hardware and a greater variety of devices. It’s a big win for consumers and the industry alike.


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