Enough of batteries, already!
But is it bad, or good?
The Internet of Things should embed polluting electronics in billions of things that mostly don’t really need it. We already know that. Less considered is the contribution of this pollution by another phenomenon, much smaller in size, but much more important, and hopefully much more lasting in the long run: the Makers Movement.
Makers activity is exciting and almost always needed, but it also is another source of batteries that will eventually end up in landfills”, or just be abandoned somewhere.
This really worries some researchers, who wanted instead every maker to be “able to effortlessly program devices in a more sustainable way”.
Batteries? Where we are going we don’t need batteries
The starting assumption of those researchers is that makers asking how to extend their devices’ battery life are asking the wrong question. The way to go, instead, is to replace the need for batteries with something that “enables devices to run perpetually with intermittent energy”.
This is not perpetual motion, that is obviously a fantasy. The key word here is “intermittent”.
Here is the trick: what the researchers have done is a combination called bFree of hardware and customized programming language that is “power-failure-resistant”. A device with those components, powered by sun, wind, or any other intermittent source, can work like ordinary hardware whenever energy is coming. The magic happens when energy stops coming, maybe because some clouds temporarily obscured the sun. Then, a “bfree” devices goes instantaneously to sleep, but in a way and state that make it restart immediately where it left off as soon as power returns, just as if it had never gone away, without reboots, resets of data losses!
Of course, pollution-wise, even solar panels pollute, and the mere absence of batteries will make little difference if people dump bFree devices everywhere they want, and then forget about them. But in the big picture, the less batteries we can get away with, the better.
If you ask me, it is simple idea like this that deserves to be called “innovation”, much more than so much crap that gets much more money.