The holiday season is a time many Americans think about ways to give back, especially to those less fortunate. And while that often times means donating toys or clothes, researchers at IBM Research India in Bangalore have found a way donate something far more valuable: hours of light and power to people who don’t have access to the electrical grid.
In India alone, about 400 million people lack grid-connected electricity. So the IBM group, working with a hardware R&D firm called RadioStudio, have developed a way to recycle discarded laptop batteries into easily charged electrical sources. The prototypes are called UrJar, a play on the Hindi words for energy (urja) and box (jar). The UrJar has a rechargable battery component built from pieces of discarded laptop batteries. It can power an LED lightbulb, cell phone charger, and table fan.
Around 50 million laptop and desktop computers are discarded in the United States every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And at least 70 percent of all discarded batteries have enough life left to power an LED light at least four hours a day for a year. So this year, consider donating your used laptops batteries (and all electronics for that matter!) instead of throwing them away or selling them.