One Word for Batteries: Plastic

4:35 PM -- As mobile devices are asked to do more and more -- download email, play music and games, receive and display videos, etc., etc. -- battery power becomes more and more of an issue. The recent stories of exploding laptops only underscores the urgency of finding new, stable, and long-last sources of power for smartphones and other handheld gadgets.

Good news: A pair of Brown University engineers may have done just that.

Working with substances known as "conductive polymers," Tayhas Palmore, an associate professor of engineering at the Providence, R.I., university, and his colleague Hyun-Kon Song have developed a hybrid mechanism that "marries the power of a capacitor with the storage capacity of a battery."

Conductive polymers, the subject of work that won Alan MacDiarmid and two other scientists the 2000 Noble Prize for chemistry, are essentially plastics that conduct electricity similar to metals. The Palmore/Song battery combines a polymer called polypyrrole with a pair of gold-coated plastic films to create a power device with twice the storage capacity of an electric double-layer capacitor and more than 100 times the power of a standard alkaline battery.

When the hybrid batteries might hit the market is anyone's guess. But I have a hunch they'll be unlikely to explode.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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