Technion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifa, IsraelSuper-Iron Battery

The Israel Institute of Technology's new Super-Iron Battery seems poised to hit the new-product trifecta. First, consumers with portable, power-hungry electronic devices will profit because it lasts 50% longer than traditional batteries and 200% longer in high-drain applications. Second, it will please technology-wary environmentalists because it contains fewer toxic metals than traditional batteries and its super-iron cathode degenerates into environmentally friendly rust. And third, it will satisfy bottom-liners because the super-iron cathode is made from common, inexpensive materials -- iron is the second-most predominant metal on earth -- and the battery can be manufactured in the rechargeable forms needed for a variety of hot products including laptops, camcorders, and electric cars. Still in the development stage, the super-iron battery looks like a traditional battery on the outside. The difference is within, where the Israeli scientists have changed a design used since the 19th century. "Nearly all of the approximately 60 billion primary batteries used each year are either dry or alkaline," explains Stuart Licht, the chemistry professor who led the research team. "Alkaline and dry batteries all use the same two active electrical-storage ingredients -- manganese dioxide and zinc. The new super-iron battery replaces the heaviest portion, the manganese dioxide, with super iron, which has a much higher electrical-energy storage." Licht says that most scientists are unfamiliar with super iron and that other researchers had concluded that it was too unstable for batteries. However, he and his team discovered that the caustic solutions commonly used in traditional batteries actually stabilize the super iron, making it the perfect material for these next-generation batteries. John Teresko, John Sheridan, Tim Stevens, Doug Bartholomew, Patricia Panchak, Tonya Vinas, Samuel Greengard, Kristin Ohlson, and Barbara Schmitz contributed to this article.

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