Intel Corp. has signed a collaborative partnership to develop batteries based upon zinc oxide, the first examples of which will be demonstrated this fall.
Startup Zinc Matrix Power has already developed prototypes of the technology, which will be shown off at the Intel Developer Forum this September in San Francisco. Production will begin in 2006, ZMP executives said.
A number of technologies are vying to replace the current lithium-ion batteries found in laptops, as well as the alkaline batteries and nickel-metal hydride rechargeables used by portable electronics devices. Among those are variations on fuel cells, some of which use liquid methanol, water and a catalyst to drive a reaction which generates electricity.
According to Skip Zeiler, president and chief executive of Santa Barberas ZMP, a typical lithium-ion battery inside of a laptop generates about 275 to 285 watt-hours per liter of material. The company has demonstrated a zinc-oxide matrix that about doubles that efficiency, Zeiler said. In the lab, ZMP has designed zinc-oxide compounds with 600W-h capacities. Intel and ZCP will work together to develop the technology further, he said.
Although zinc oxide is said to be safer than lithium-ion cells, the technology is prone to two problems: as the zinc oxide cell discharges, the oxide dissolves in the electrolyte and disperses throughout the battery. Recharging the battery requires the zinc oxide to reform itself in a set pattern for the battery to perform consistently.
Upon recharging, the zinc will react with water inside the battery, forming oxygen and hydrogen, the latter of which will consume the water inside the electrolyte, reducing the batterys ability to recharge over time. ZMP developed special polymers to prevent this, according to the company, which lock the zinc and zinc oxide inside a specially designed matrix — the basis for the companys name.
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