Laptop computers have freed many desk workers from their chains--but at a sacrifice of features. Many portable computers don't have color screens or large hard-disk drives--de rigueur on most desktop PCs--because of power limitations. The rechargeable batteries currently used in portable PCs just can't provide enough energy for long periods of time. But AER Energy Resources Inc. in Atlanta is working to provide more power, using a zinc-air battery developed by Dreisbach ElectroMotive Inc. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
AER figures the battery, a form of which was used on an electric car that recently won a race in Phoenix, can give laptop owners the long-lasting power they need. With air as one of the key ingredients, the battery is lighter and can provide more energy per pound than current batteries, which are based on heavy, toxic metals such as cadmium. According to Frank Harris, AER's vice-president for marketing and sales, a prototype battery kept a Toshiba laptop going for 10 hours--about five times as long as before.