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Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Tech trends for powering devices

Dan Simmons with Chargepod devices
Dan Simmons tries out Callpod's two device charger
Dan Simmons finds out why powering up your shiny bits of tech could get a lot easier and greener in 2009.

Gadget enthusiasts know that mobile phones, multimedia players and other portable devices running out of battery quickly is frustrating.

But the latest breed of chargers found at this year's Consumer Electronics Show aim to make life a little easier.

Charging mats

One such device is Powermat - this portable mat or tray allows energy to be consumed wirelessly.

It uses magnetic induction to transfer power through dongles or special sleeves that need to be slipped onto gadgets.

Tiny radio transmitters in the sleeves or dongles tell the mat what it is charging.

The power management system on Powermat means a low-powered mobile device and a bigger consumer like a laptop can be recharged from the same plug.

Wireless power has been around for many years but it has traditionally suffered from poor efficiency.

But the boss of Powermat, Ron Ferber claimed his system will produce improved results.

Powermat
Powermat can wirelessly recharge various devices at once

"We have over 90% efficiency with our system compared to a standard adaptor which would be more in the 50-60% range," said Mr Ferber.

"We charge time in real time meaning that we charge at the same rate or faster than the adaptor that came with the device," he added.

The charging device is available from autumn this year, and if it proves successful, the technology behind it could one day be built into work surfaces at home.

Powermat said the energy needed to power surfaces when not is use is less than leaving a fully charged phone plugged in.

Despite these innovations, battery technology itself has failed to keep pace with rates of development in other tech such as processors, GPS, or touch screens.

Natali del Conte from the technology news and entertainment website CNET said batteries for mobile devices need to improve.

"We see internal memory get larger, the devices get smaller and the displays have higher resolution, but we still have battery life as a problem," said Ms del Conte.

High-energy battery

New Energizer battery
New rectangular Energizer is three times more powerful than before

One answer could be Energizer's new disposable Zinc-air prismatic battery which holds three times the energy of alkaline or lithium batteries.

"The battery itself has holes so that it can use oxygen from the air as one of the active materials," explained Jon Eager, marketing director at Energizer.

"That's what allows us to get such a high energy density - the battery itself only needs to contain one of the active materials (zinc)," he added.

But gadgets that take the new batteries will not hit the shops until the end of the year, and will sell for up to three times the price of conventional ones.

Greener power

Following the focus for greener power, Fuji has come up with what it claims are the first disposable batteries that can be safely thrown away with household rubbish.

Jerome Pruett from Fuji noted that going green in this case does not mean a power loss.

"Some people might think that because you're using recycled material that there'd be a trade off. Because of the engineering of this product they've actually increased the power by as much as 15% in its service life," Mr Pruett said.

Chargepod

One charger doing away with cables is Chargepod which can charge six devices simultaneously from one plug socket.

Its makers Callpod also have a mobile version that allows two gadgets to be powered up while on the move.

Kinesis K2 charger
Kinesis K2 is a combined solar and wind power charger

Renewable power

For those who want to keep it green on the go, there is a new combined solar and wind power charger.

The compact charger Kinesis K2 is about the size of a flashlight and allows consumers to generate power from these renewable sources.

USB charging

Another way to power up gadgets is the award-winning USBcell battery which can be recharged simply by plugging into a computer's USB port.

These AA batteries will soon be joined by mobile phone batteries that do the same thing.

Hydrogen fuel cells

With up to 10 times the power of standard batteries, hydrogen fuel cells have been talked about for some time.

This year will see both disposable and rechargeable cells, whose only by-product is water, hit the market.

Mini chemistry kits are being planned so fuel cells can be recharged at home.

Green charging station

For people thinking big, the LG Skycharger can power up 100 devices at once.

It is a freestanding renewable energy mobile phone charging station which will be used at festival sites this year.

Elbow power

But if the elements cannot be relied on, perhaps the most reliable gadget to have is a wind-up one.

Eco media player is just one of the latest devices to be juiced up by a bit of elbow grease.

It is claimed one minute of winding the eco-power dynamo on this player will provide up to 45 minutes of play time.



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