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Start-up touts safer, fast-charging notebook battery

Batteries. Getting them cool is hot.

Boston-Power says its new battery for laptops comes with three distinct advantages over conventional ones: It recharges in about half the time, it provides about the same amount of power, and it won't blow up.

The Sonata battery, which Hewlett-Packard has been tinkering with, can be charged to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes, CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud says. Conventional notebook batteries take one to two hours to get to 90 percent capacity.

Boston's battery in action Boston Power

"We picked 30 minutes and drove development to that," she said. Lampe-Onnerud will show off the Sonata for the first time publicly during a presentation at Demo '07, taking place in Palm Desert this week.

The Sonata, she added, is also electrically and mechanically compatible with current notebook designs. Put it into a regular notebook and you'll get about the same amount of run time. (The Boston-Power battery is the blue one pictured here).

The company is part of a wave of battery start-ups that have emerged in recent years. A few years ago, if you said you worked at battery company, people thought you were the guy who filled up the Ray-o-Vac display at Walgreens. A few exploding laptops later, venture capitalists are throwing money at you.

There is no magic silver bullet inside the Sonata, Lampe-Onnerud said. Instead, the battery differs from conventional notebook batteries through a large number of design tweaks. "We understand the system. We don't have a killer chemical," she said.

The "can," or outside casing around the battery cells, is made from a metal alloy that is stronger than the iron cans used with notebook batteries and thus will remain intact in case of a thermal reaction, or fire, inside.