We mentioned that CES this year was a bit of a let down from the big guys like Microsoft, nVidia, AMD and Intel. Instead of wowing us with new consumer technology things were pretty much a rehash of items already in play. But that is not to say that CES was a letdown. Quite the opposite in fact; we found that the lack of major announcements by the big guys allowed us to explore the floor much more. One of the smaller companies that we ran across was PowerGenix
. If you have not heard of PowerGenix before do not be too concerned; before meeting them at CES we had never heard of them either. After our experience with their product; they are a company that we won’t soon forget. So without too much more preamble, let us introduce you to PowerGenix and their 100% recyclable
Nickel-Zinc 1.6 Volt rechargeable batteries.Who is PowerGenix -and why Nickel-Zinc?
PowerGenix is a San Diego based company that provides environmentally friendly battery solutions. They [re]developed an old concept from 100 years ago. No, it is not another Nikola Tesla invention; this time Thomas Edison is the original creator and the technology is using an electrochemical combination of Nickel and Zinc for a rechargeable battery system. This combination was to be used to power vehicles before the introduction of the internal combustion engine and also had potential for other uses but due to technological limitations was soon replaced.
But as with many ideas from the past as technology improves these flashes of early genius are reintroduced in more efficient forms. This is the case with NiZn [Nickel-Zinc]. Most of you know about the current forms of rechargeable batteries. There is Nickel-Cadmium [NiCad], Nickel-Metal-Hydride [NiMH] and Lithium-Ion [Li-Ion]. Now NiCad and MiMH have been predominantly replaced by Li-Ion in consumer electronics like Phones and PDAs your typical AA or Power Pack will still use NiCad or NiMH [although you can find some Li-Ion at a much higher price]. Still each of these types has their disadvantages for commercial usage.
NiCad – The old NiCad battery is probably the worst form; it has serious environmental and health issues. Cadmium
is an extremely toxic substance
that is not good for you [it is a carcinogen] or the environment. This means that its use and reuse is subject to expensive processes to ensure worker and consumer safety. But outside of the health concerns NiCad batteries have other problems. One of these is an issue where batteries using this electrochemistry can develop a memory. This is when the batter does not know its full charge capacity but thinks that it has less available. This can happen when the NiCad battery is not allowed to fully discharge before recharging it. As most consumers do not want their equipment to die before recharging it is a problem that often pops up in real world usage. Because of this and the very serious health concerns NiCad is seldom used anymore for batteries.
NiMH – After the NiCad came the NiMH Battery
. This electrochemical compound did not have the same health and environmental issues that the NiCad had but it did have some other limitations. While the NiMH has up to three times the volumetric energy density [capacity] of NiCad batteries its self-discharge [the rate that a battery loses charge when not in use] can be much higher. NiMH batteries are also affected more dramatically by the operating and storage temperatures that it is exposed to especially sub-zero temperatures. NiMH is also typically more expensive than other solutions.
Li-Ion – Lithium-Ion
is the now the most common rechargeable battery available today. They have one of the best volumetric electrical densities out and do not have any memory issues like NiCad batteries do. However, they are not all beer and pretzels. Li-Ion batteries have a very low operating temperature range compared to both NiCad and NiMH. They have been known to explode when overheated
. There have also been reports of them overheating and bursting if overcharged. There have been more than a few recalls on defective Li-Ion based batteries. Also Li-Ion based batteries have longevity issues and can lose up to 35% of their capacity per year if they are run outside their operating temperature
. Li-Ion batteries also have a much higher nominal rate [usually at 3.5v] making them less than suitable for typical consumer use outside certain specialty products [Cell Phones, PDAs, Digital cameras, etc.]
NiZn – Nickel-Zinc is the reintroduction of an old idea. It maintains the use of Nickel as the positive electrode but changed out the negative plate for Zinc [Instead of Cadmium or Metal Hydride]. This use of Zinc, which chemically similar to Cadmium offers some advantages. NiZn has better volumetric electrical density than either NiCad or NiMH. It has very little environmental impact and no known toxic side effects on humans or animals. NiZn also has no memory issues and also have a higher operating temperature range than either Li-Ion or NiMH and also have a higher nominal discharge rate of 1.6V vs. the 1.2V of NiMH and NiCad. This rate is close to the 1.5V of your typical alkaline batteries. On top of all of this the nickel and zinc components can both be fully recycled with a reuse level of almost 100% for both materials.
Of course this is not an in-depth chemical or technical analysis of each battery type but an overview [in simple terms] that cover the highlights of each.
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