When our electronics give up the ghost, or simply become obsolete, we usually bid farewell by dumping them unceremoniously in the garbage or recycling bins. For a few of us, it’s a bit like throwing away a partly-eaten chicken salad – someone could do with that food energy! Because the same goes for electronics – someone could do with that electrical energy! Among others, those in developing countries where power is limited and inconsistent, and cheap and accessible storage is gold there.

Enter IBM.

Researchers from the University of Toronto published a paper this month that covers possible solutions to convert batteries found in eWaste to a reliable light and energy source solution for those living in ‘Energy Poverty’.

Ultimately, your old iPhone battery is not dead…it is merely just exhausted from too much Candy Crush and Angry Birds. Researchers estimated that 70% of batteries can provide 4 hours of LED lighting, which is significant enough for kids trying to squeeze in more time to study, more time for the parents to cook or work a few additional hours after the sun has gone down.

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Of course, batteries come in a huge variety of sizes and styles. Solidsmack talked to Zainul Charbiwala, one of the researchers on the project. Modular and customizable trays and racks were considered, complete with electricity meters to measure the amount of juice left. “The objective is to create a system where people can put in and pull out batteries at will, mixing and matching different types and trays. When one tray starts failing, a new one can be inserted, etc, etc.” said Charbiwala. There are challenges, most notably, rats eating the wiring. Yes. RODENTS EAT WIRES. When users in India were asked about how they could improve the UrJar, some noted that they could have ‘Thicker connecting wires so that ‘rats cannot cut them easily”. Why do rats hate progress so much? Maybe it’s the Rat from Lady and the Tramp?

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Hat Tip to the IBM team for this project, with members Zainul Charbiwala, Harshad Khadikar, Mohit Jain, Sunil Ghai, Vikas Chandan, Rajesh Kunnath and Deva Seetharam.

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