The Year In Innovations Includes Breakthrough Battery Technology

A123 System's lithium-ion batteries offer exponential improvements in power, life and recharging time compared with other batteries.

Published: 03-Jan-2006

lass=textBodyBlack>Massachusetts trumpets its status as a hotbed for innovation, the region's distinct advantage and key to its future. Yet much of the homegrown innovation evolves quietly, far from many observers' notice. How about a battery that may leapfrog conventional offerings? Or a state-of-the-art tea bag? Or a device that can essentially see through walls?

Below is an assortment of local innovation that captured the imagination of the Boston Journal staff in 2005.


A better battery

A123 Systems Inc. finally revealed this year that it has been spending much of its time in the tool shed.

For the first time in November, the Watertown company publicly discussed its new lithium-ion batteries, which it says offer exponential improvements in power, life and recharging time compared with other batteries.

Having already revealed aspects of its technology in unpublicized patent filings, the real news was that Black & Decker Corp. (NYSE: BDK) is using A123 batteries with its DeWalt line of power tools. The Towson, Md., company reportedly plans to use 36-volt batteries from A123 for portable circular saws, concrete drills and high-torque wrenches for lug nuts and the like -- jobs which would quickly sap the strength of 18-volt batteries commonly used by tradesmen today.

A123 was spun out of MIT in 2001 and has raised $32 million in funding. Backers include Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM).

The company has also received nearly $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to study whether A123's technology can be used for hybrid vehicles.


Cobasys' complete plug and play NiMHax 36 Volt system includes its high power Series 1000 advanced NiMH battery modules and electronics in a small, lightweight package designed specifically for GM's application.

Batteries could soon replace standard nickel-metal hydride batteries in hybrid vehicles. PHOTO: Sandia researcher Brad Hance examines a lithium-ion battery that may someday be put in a hybrid car.

Images of different types of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are key to MIT researchers' efforts to improve on an energy storage device called an ultracapacitor.


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