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NEC's green battery for data backup

Company is developing an emergency power supply that utilizes organic radical compounds instead of heavy metals. Photo: Eco-friendly data backup

Japan's NEC is developing a new type of eco-friendly battery designed to help keep PCs and other household equipment working if the lights go out.

The device, which NEC calls a high-power organic radical battery, or ORB, is novel for its environmental sensitivity. NEC said it designed the rechargeable battery to use the electrochemical reaction of organic radical compounds rather than potentially harmful heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium, which are usually found in batteries.

NEC ORB battery

Scientists have been working to improve battery life and make them more eco-friendly than alkaline batteries since the mid-'50s, when solar-powered batteries were introduced.

The ORB technology, initially proposed by NEC in 2001, has gone through a series of tests already. The company did not say when the battery would be available to the general market.

When a power failure, blackout or voltage drop of 20 percent occurs, NEC said ORB sends off a signal to the computer and helps initiate a data backup and shutdown. During this period, the ORB supplies power to the PC. The cells, which weigh an additional 3 ounces, can be easily mounted in most desktop PCs, NEC said.

The 2.1-inch by 1.6-inch battery has enough power to drive a 140-watt PC for about a minute, just enough time, NEC said, for a computer to back up precious files and settings.

In its testing phase, ORB was able to serve as an emergency power source for NEC's typical desktop PC power consumption: 228-watt maximum, 96-watt average, the company said.

The company said it is stepping up its research and development activities in the area of data backup, as well as its research into the ORB's market potential.

NEC and Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) helped coordinate the development of ORB.