It could be said that to innovate is human – and ever since creating the first primitive tools, humankind has kept innovating, developing, and producing. The burst of technological advancement from the 1980’s has rapidly increased the amount of electronic devices in every household. However, this rapid material growth has factored in the crises we face today: climate change, depleting natural resources, and loss of natural habitats and biodiversity. Thus, instead of more, we need to innovate better, smarter, and resource wiser.
At the beginning the smart and compact innovation that is BrightCharger today, was a charger, with a green globe symbolising our main principle: the hope for a greener future. Our great vision is to save energy and batteries by providing smart solutions. However, we soon realised that instead of thinking bigger, the best way to improve things was to think smaller.
Battery-powered life has its downside
In our previous blog we described a number of ways battery-based technology is present in our lives. Since solely the number of mobile devices (i.e. phones and tablets) is estimated to increase from 14.02 billion in 2020 to 17.72 billion in 2024, the number of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) is also skyrocketing. The push for a world without fossil fuels will also increase the need for LIBs, as e-vehicles become more common. Unfortunately, this development may have drastic consequences for the environment.
Lithium is extracted mainly from brine pools, especially in Bolivia, where lithium extraction sites have been established on natural salt pans. Because the extraction method is based in solar energy it is cost-effective, although time consuming. However, the process uses lots of water which can be devastating for the local water supply, which is also in danger of being polluted by toxic chemicals leaking from the evaporation pools. In Tibet 2016, such a toxic leak from a lithium mine polluted the Liqi river killing fish.
Cobalt, another important component of LIBs, however, has a much greater impact on the environment. In general, mining causes pollution, habitat loss, and deforestation, which has a major role in climate change. Cobalt mining has been reported to pollute waters, plants and fauna. A life cycle assessment conducted by Farjana et al. (2019) for example, suggests that the most notable effects of cobalt extraction are related to climate change and eutrophication. Another major issue with cobalt is child labor that is reportetly used, in Democratic Republic of Congo, which is currently the largest producer of cobalt.
Because of the environmental and social impact of cobalt and lithium extractions, less primal metals should be used. However, recycling LIBs is a hard task. The size and design of LIBs vary a lot, making the recycling process complicated and costly. In addition, LIBs pose a fire hazard and there are safety issues related to LIBs, especially if the batteries have some charge left in them.
Save energy and resources with brighter thinking
BrightCharger aims to lengthen battery life by putting an end to overcharging. Applying smart technology to the power sources will help to reduce the environmental impact during the LIB’s life cycle. Furthermore, dying batteries are one of the main reasons people get rid of their hand-held devices. BrightCharger technology can lengthen the battery life, which further decreases the amount of e-waste – or at least distributes the amount of waste over a longer period of time. This buys valuable time for designing recycling processes and recyclable LIBs.
In addition, stopping unnecessary charging with BrightCharger technology helps to save energy. We have estimated that if every household in Finland charged their mobile devices (one tablet and mobile phone) with BrightCharger technology, the annual energy savings would be equal to the power produced by one nuclear power plant. Imagine the change, if the same technology would be applied to all the households in i.e. Europe and all the handheld devices. Because energy production is one of the major sources of CO2 emissions, this would be an important asset in the fight against climate change.
The BrightCharger innovation is one step towards a more sustainable world. Step by step, one innovation at a time, we will create a greener future for everyone.