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Author's profile photo Jim Spath

On The Road to Berlin (Part 4)

Power

In a prior blog, I wrote about what I’m packing, and what I’m trying to leave home.

image

Here’s the picture again, for further discussion.  Previously, I was talking about weight, as in, how much mass am I going to need to load onto the luggage check, the overhead compartment, etc.  Now the question is, how much battery power am I carrying.  For an environmental impact, how much resources am I consuming?

Batteries in my gear

  • watch (I mention this because mine stopped on the way to Nashville)
  • phone (3.7 v Li-ion polymer – standard battery 30 grams; extended 40g)
  • laptop (330 gram standard Li-ion battery; extended battery probably 500 g)
  • camera (2 AAs)
  • mp3 player/recorder (2 AAs)
  • flashlight (2 AAs)
  • alarm clock (1 AAA)
  • noise canceling headphones (1 AAA)

Recharger(s)

The watch battery isn’t rechargeable, though I looked at solar-powered and self-winding models that last time my battery died.  I’m now using a watch that someone else at work gave me (parts of) and bought another battery for that.

The phone uses an AC charger (left middle of picture), although it has a USB cable that can only be used for data.

The laptop uses a huge transformer (not pictured).  I had a smaller one, but the cable near the tip started fraying and I decided that electrical tape wasn’t a viable solution.  The replacement is heavier, not to mention that the tip isn’t sized quite right and tends to slide out too easily.

I had a rather hefty NiMH battery recharger, but just got a new model that is both smaller and lighter – was 400 grams, now 110. You can see the bag of extra AAs and AAAs on the right of the picture.

Environmental Impact

According to a U.S. Office of Technology Assessment 1989 report titled “Facing America’s Trash: What Next for Municipal Solid Waste,” 2 billion batteries of all shapes and sizes are sold in the U.S. per year (that may only be 10 per person, but still). I had been buying larger and larger packs of AA and AAA batteries at super-stores until common sense finally kicked in.  What was going to happen to all of those batteries when they died?  Once I succumbed to using a digital camera, I found a pair of batteries would last barely a day or 2 if I was taking a lot of shots.

I collect batteries wherever I see them, mainly on streets and parking lots.  I try to find places to recycle them, but it’s tough to know where they belong.  The above cited report has a sobering assessment of the state of the art, even if it is nearly 20 years ago – not that much has changed, for both lead-acid car batteries, and the ubiquitous consumer batteries.

In college, for an engineering class, I visited a copper refining facility near Baltimore City.  While working for Maryland State, I inspected similar manufacturing sites, including a manganese plant (a component of batteries and other products), a steel mill, chemical waste processing facilities, and municipal solid waste incinerators (generators of mercury and other toxics when metals such as batteries are heated).  There’s a lot to think about out there.

Google “battery hike” to see some of my finds.

Travel Tips

There’s a burgeoning Tips for First Time TechEd-er wiki page on the SAP site. One of my tips was to take rechargeable, not disposable batteries.  I plan to haul my new charger around, so if you bring batteries but forget the charger, look me up.

As for Lithium Ion batteries, there is a travel advisory – don’t quote me but the advice is, carry them on, don’t check them.  If you recall what I said above, both my laptop and my cell phone use this technology. Try the page http://www.prba.org/Laws_and_Regulations/Default.ashx or http://SafeTravel.dot.gov for more insight.

Disclaimer

I work at a place that makes consumer products that may include rechargeable batteries.  While I’m a little familiar with the chemistry, metallurgy, physics and engineering behind some of these products, I’m relating views of my personal life, not anything to do with where I work.  If you do a little research, you can find more about the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association, and the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.

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