The future of solar cell and rechargeable battery technology -- and pumps

At a recent energy innovation conference, U.S. Energy Secretary John Chu said that recent breakthroughs will soon have solar and rechargeable batteries "going viral" across the globe much the same as cell phones, the MSNBC Future of Tech blog reports.

Chu was at the annual summit of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a branch of the energy department launched by Barack Obama in 2009 to spur innovation. The concept aims to provide short term funding to push research out the lab and toward private sector investment, according to blog post's writer John Roach.

The newest developments in the field include a lithium-ion battery that has energy density of 400 watt hours per kilogram, nearly twice that of existing batteries. The advancement could dramatically cut the cost of batteries and increase the range of electric cars from 80 miles to 300 miles. Definitely intriguing, but what caught our attention was Chu's broader vision of the use of inexpensive, but powerful rechargeable batteries -- one that included operating pumps.

"You can bring this power to small villages to places where you can read at night, to where you can run a refrigerator where you can keep your medicines safe, to where you can run things to pump water for your irrigation," Chu said. "We see this as having huge potential worldwide."

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