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Discarded Laptop batteries can help light up India
Friday February 13, 2015 1:11 AM, Syed Ali Mujtaba,

India is power starved country. There are ways and means are being searched in order to get round the problem. In the high profile visit of the US president Brack Obama, Prime Minister Narander Modi told the nation that a breakthrough in nuclear energy has made with the Civil -Nuclear deal with the US and soon India will become a power surplus nation.

Laptop batteries

There was all round applause and clap from the countrymen but soon it turned out to be a case where a distance has to be travelled between the cup and the limp. The energy euphoria soon paled into oblivion.

Unfazed by such hype and hoopla about creating alternative to the issue power shortage in the country a band of researchers from IBM India has demonstrated a low-cost solution to solve the problem of unavailable electrical power in the country.

The researches have demonstrated lighting solution using discarded laptop batteries and claim their device "UrJar" can lighten urban slums and rural areas for about four hours for almost a year.

They found that at least 70 percent of all discarded batteries have enough life left to power an LED light at least half of the night for a year.

The IBM group, working with a hardware Research and Development firm RadioStudio, opened the discarded laptop battery packaging and extracted individual storage units called cells.

They tested 35 cells individually to pick out the good ones and recombined them to form refurbished battery packs.

After adding charging dongles as well as circuitry to prevent overheating, they gave them to some users in Bangalore city who lived in slums or operated sidewalk carts.

Three months later, the street vendor that used a light powered refurbished battery cells said the battery packs was working very well.

Similarly other users too extolled the performance of the device and all were happy about its usage. However, the main request from all them was to have rat-resistant wires and brighter bulbs. The IBM team is now testing on a revised setup and coming up with new refurbished devise.

The researchers found that 70 percent of discarded batteries had enough power to keep an LED light to keep the homes lighted before midnight every day for a year.

The IBM team that created the device UrJar, uses lithium-ion cells from the old batteries to power low-energy devices such as a light. UrJar has the capacity to last for more than a year.

The combination of LED lights with solar panels and rechargeable batteries using discarded batteries has made the device much cheaper. The researchers estimate that if UrJar is made in large volume, the price per unit may cost about 600 rupees.

UrJar provides a cleaner and potentially cheaper alternative than burning kerosene. This could be the cheapest means to meet the lighting requirements because here the most costly component is the battery, and in this case it is coming from the trash that has no cost.

Using discarded batteries is cheaper than the existing power options. IBM is not considering this as a business proposition but says the technology could be offered free to poor of the country living in slums and other places.

UrJar provides a means to utilize the latent residual capacity in laptop batteries, which would otherwise be wasted. It helps deal with the mounting electronic-waste problem in the country. UrJar has the potential to channel e-waste towards the lessening of energy poverty.

E-waste is a major problem particularly in the developing country like India. With a booming IT market, India is generating huge amount of e-waste of its own. This is estimated to be around 32 tonnes a day. Apart from this, India receives a lot of e-waste from other countries.

Many of the estimated 50 million lithium-ion laptop batteries discarded every year could provide electricity storage sufficient to light homes of the poors in the country. In India alone, about 400 million people lack grid-connected electricity. Millions of batteries discarded with computers have more than enough life to solve the problem of lighting home in the country.

Indians cannot wait for Civil – Nuclear deal to fructify. Now they have options in hand. UrJar only needs a bit of government support to lighten up India. Can Prime Minister Narander Modi adopt this in his Make in India vision? If he does so, it may be quicker way to lighten homes in the country.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at]

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