HP last year had to recall chargers that shipped with the HP Chromebook 11, after they overheated and melted.A new battery technology has been announced that promises to bring cheaper, more environmentally friendly transport to the world. A joint project from Williams Advanced Engineering, Oxford University and British battery startup Faradion, the sodium-ion battery is dramatically cheaper and safer than traditional lithium-ion batteries – but still has performance and battery life comparable to traditional batteries.“Sodium ion is a fascinating alternative that could have real benefits in terms of cost and availability” said Paul McNamara, technical director at Williams – and we agree with him.
Made as a proof of concept, the e-bike’s battery is made up of four 12-cell modules. Designed by Williams Advanced Engineering and controlled by one of the company’s battery-management systems, it uses technology originally developed for Formula E and Formula 1’s Kinetic Energy Recovery (KERS) systems.The most popular type of battery today, lithium ion powers everything from smartphones, laptops and cars – but its use of lithium makes them expensive. It isn't the easiest element to extract, and none is found in the UK. Instead, Bolivia and Chile make up 60% of the element’s production, with Australia and China making up a further 30%. In contrast, sodium is available in the UK, is far more abundant worldwide and can even be extracted from common salt – one of the reasons it’s around one-tenth of the price of lithium.
Lithium-ion batteries still aren’t completely reliable, either. They’re great as a source of energy, but lithium’s highly reactive tendencies also make it risky to use in electric vehicles. The lithium-ion batteries used in Boeing’s Dreamliner 787 have suffered from failures due to “thermal runaway” – a chemical chain reaction, the phenomenon caused the heat of lithium-ion batteries to spiral out of control, resulting in a number of catastrophic failures.Thanks to their ease of manufacture, sodium-ion batteries remove the barrier of cost for battery use. In developing countries, the batteries could be used in conjunction with solar panels as a cheap, reliable source of energy for lights, heat and even medical equipment. IBM are already using discarded lithium-ion batteries to help power poorer countries in the same way, but a low-cost alternative such as sodium ion would make an even bigger difference.
The technology has applications closer to home, too. Usually the most expensive components of electric cars and hybrid vehicles, lithium-ion batteries could be replaced by their sodium-ion counterparts, dramatically reducing prices and in turn increasing demand for hybrid vehicles. The technology also has improved thermal stability, which means that it’s actually safer to use in vehicles.Energy storage solutions such as Tesla’s Powerwall could also benefit. Directly addressing the problem of unbalanced energy supply and demand, even the cheapest Tesla unit costs a hefty $3,000 (£1,954). Sodium-ion technology would cut costs dramatically, making units such as the Powerwall a far more viable option for homes and businesses.
While we wait for a fundamentally different method of energy storage, sodium-ion batteries are by far our best option. They represent a way of increasing safety and reducing costs, and will revolutionise how we think about energy at home and in industry. They’re even manufactured in the same way as their lithium counterparts, so existing manufacturers will be able to switch over easily. What are we waiting for?HP has recalled six million power cords for laptops, saying they are a fire and burn hazard to users.The faulty cords led to 29 reports of overheating, melting or "charring", as well as two "minor burns" and 13 claims of "minor property damage", HP said."Customers should immediately stop using and unplug the recalled power cords and contact Hewlett-Packard to order a free replacement" the recall notice says. "Consumers can continue to use the computer on battery power."
It all started a year ago when one user reported, on Apple's support forums, weird stains appearing on their MacBook Pro with Retina Display screen.From there it snowballed into a 42 page thread with over 600 replies, with more and more users have come forward about their MacBook displays, Retina or otherwise, receiving similar perplexing stains. See Also: The best laptops of 2015 A year on and the problem still hasn't been solved, and Apple doesn't seem to be looking into it either.Users have determined the issue to be a result of the anti-reflective coating applied to MacBook Pro screens stripping itself away. Some have postulated its cause as acidic excretions from the skin contaminating the keyboard and MacBook chassis. Their reasoning? A large amount of the stains appear to be in the middle or upper edges of the display, in a pattern mirroring that of the keyboard, trackpad, and surrounding case.
Apple's stance on the matter certainly hasn't been supportive, with Staingate.org stating Apple won't cover the cost of replacement due to it being "cosmetic damage" which is "not covered by the warranty". Currently, the cost to repair the screen is around $800/€800 and comes with a three month warranty, but user reports suggest screen damage can occur within just seven months after purchase.With 1,477 people registered into its database, and 1,065 users in its Facebook Group this is by no means a small problem. However, is it big enough for Apple to really respond to?With this many people all experiencing the same problem in varying degrees, it's rather far-fetched to imply a lack of MacBook care. In fact, perusing the support forums you can read posts from users who clean their laptops with freshwater and the included MacBook cloth, before leaving it to dry overnight; others wipe their screens down after every use, and avoid screen protectors in case it exacerbates the issue. Put simply, these people appear to take better care of their MacBooks than most. So what is actually causing the problem?