IBM researchers in Bangalore, India, have revealed that discarded laptop batteries have the potential to provide enough power to keep lights running in low-income homes.
The researchers collected and tested 32 laptop battery packs that were discarded by a business division of a large multinational IT company in India after three years of use (10 tonnes of laptop batteries were discarded by this company). Each of these battery packs had been used for at least three years. The team found that at least 70% of discarded batteries were able to power an LED light for a minimum of four hours a day for a full year. Some participants in a test conducted with street vendors in rural communities stated their shop could stay open for longer as a result of having a reliable source of light.
Each pack can be produced for as little as 600 rupees (about £7). Additional power outlets mean the pack can also power multiple light sources as well as charge phones and/or radios. The IBM researchers envisage the system working in conjunction with a network of solar-powered community charging stations where users can go to charge up their battery packs for free.
Photo credit: Sam Greenhalgh / Flickr
In India, 400 million people live without grid-connected electricity. The cost of extending the grid would be between $8,000 and $10,000 per kilometre. Currently, India discards 32 tonnes of computers per day, and lithium-ion batteries remain a challenge in terms of waste disposal. By using one problem to solve the other, the project demonstrates the potential of circular systems to accelerate low-carbon development.