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Why a Rechargeable Zinc Battery Is Such a Big Deal

Lithium-ion battery cells on the production line of the Eliiy Power Co. plant
in Kawasaki City, Japan
Lithium-ion battery cells on the production line of the Eliiy Power Co. plant in Kawasaki City, JapanPhotograph by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Picture a Nike FuelBand that’s just a small ring on your index finger, or a cell phone that’s as slim and pliable as a credit card. Such thin, tiny or just downright unusual shapes could be created if there were batteries slim, flexible and also powerful enough to run the gadgets. The batteries, it turns out, are the main barrier to modern electronics design.

But in a small, brightly lit lab in an office park behind the Oakland Airport in Alameda, Calif., a young startup called Imprint Energy, is using research created at the University of California, Berkeley to develop just such a battery that could free gadget makers from the constraints of the standard lithium ion battery. Well, that’s the plan, anyway.