It would send and receive faxes and video and have the processing power of a personal computer. The cell phone of the future would be on the market today but for one hitch: the battery.
The technology is available to build cell phones that would make the latest versions -- those that allow users to send pictures and play video games -- seem almost primitive. But the batteries now used in cell phones are not nearly powerful enough to drive all the fancy add-ons, said Charles Martin, a University of Florida chemistry professor. Laptop computers, video cameras and digital cameras also are hobbled by todays power storage technology. Meanwhile, tiny machines being developed for a variety of purposes -- such as "lab-on-a-chip" devices that sense airborne chemical or biological pathogens -- will require batteries many times smaller and more powerful than todays smallest batteries.
So Martin and his team are making progress on a new approach: Batteries inspired by the emerging field of nanotechnology. The research could both improve the small batteries used in portable electronics and lead to truly miniscule power packs for so called "microelectromechanical" machines, or MEMS, devices. In the first year of a five-year collaborative effort with three other institutions funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the research is showing progress toward its goal of creating a three-dimensional, millimeter-sized battery – considerably smaller than the centimeter-sized hearing aid batteries that are the smallest batteries on the market today.
Aaron Hoover | EurekAlert!
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