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Micro-engines to power next-gen PDAs, PCs, phones

Birmingham boffins build better battery

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Forget about fuel cells: 'micro-engines' are the future of mobile device power supplies, if the predictions of a team of scientists at the UK's University of Birmingham come to pass.

Two UoB Mech Eng. micro engines

A research team from the University's Mechanical Engineering department lead by Dr Kyle Jiang have developed a motor just a few millimetres in size that can nevertheless generate more than 300 times as much energy as an ordinary battery.

The engines (left) could be used to charge mobile phones and notebook PC batteries in just a few seconds, the team believe, eliminating the need to leave them hooked up to the mains.

"These micro-engines will be much more energy efficient than standard batteries," said Jiang. "It takes 2000 times more energy to manufacture a battery than the battery dispenses while it is being used. Soon everyone will be able to charge their mobile phones instantly using a shot of cigarette lighter fuel instead of having to find a socket for a charger and wait while the phone charges up."

Micro pistons

Ultimately, mobile devices like PDAs could even be fitted with their own micro-engines, fueled from a built-in tank.

"We all have to slot in our AA batteries which require changing and manufacturing," said team member Dr Michael Ward, a senior lecturer at the UoB. "Much better if we could use hydrocarbon energy directly so that we could use these little engines to give us electricity directly, without having to go through the battery cycle." ®

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