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This week at TreeHugger: We have become a race of people that have large amounts of energy stored in our pockets and on our laps, so it's time to discuss the next step in power storage technology: the lithium polymer battery. An Australian National University researcher claims to have invented a technology that could cut the cost of producing solar panels by more than 60 percent. Introducing the PowerCost and Power2Save, a dynamic duo of home energy monitors that act as "electricity speedometers" for your house. Lastly, TreeHugger pal Shayne McQuade, inventor of the Voltaic solar backpack, dishes on the "why" and "how" of his invention by MyDream.TV

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Portable electronics and other gadgets have fully infiltrated many of our lives; as a result, we have become a race of people that have large amounts of energy stored in our pockets and on our laps. That luxury has environmental, financial and, since they started exploding, personal risks involved. So we thought it would be worthwhile to discuss the TreeHugger implications of next step in power storage technology: the lithium polymer battery. Recently, lithium-ion batteries have taken over the portable electronics industry, and, for every unit of energy they contain, they are lighter, cheaper, and smaller than other kinds of batteries, despite their penchant for catching fire. In response to the dangers of packing more power into a Li-ion battery pack, portable electronics makers are turning to lithium polymer batteries, whose main advantage is their reluctance to explode under duress.

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An Australian National University researcher claims to have invented a technology that could cut the cost of producing solar panels by more than 60 percent. According to Professor Andrew Blakers, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University system works by taking a standard solar cell about one millimeter thick and cutting it into tiny slices that are just 120 micrometers wide. "Imagine a standard solar cell is a loaf of bread. When you put it out in the sun it generates energy based on its surface area. Now imagine you cut that loaf up into slices and lay them horizontally. You get a lot more surface area," he said. According to him, the technique also allows researchers to use much smaller amounts of expensive silicon to generate the same amount of electricity.

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The PowerCost and Power2Save are a duo of home energy monitors that act as "electricity speedometers" for your house. The low-maintenance fix can help reduce electricity use by 5 to 20 percent, as you can see the immediate impact of changing a single lightbulb in pennies spent; alternately, crank up your new Wii, PS3 or plasma TV and watch the monitors spin.

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Lastly, TreeHugger pal Shayne McQuade, inventor of the Voltaic solar backpack, was recently interviewed on the "why" and "how" of his invention by MyDream.TV. So why'd he do it? Shayne was traveling with a solar charger that he had to dig out of his bag and set up in the sun every time he wanted to charge something. It got him thinking, and he did a little research. Before long, he'd ordered flexible solar panels, and the rest was history...

TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.

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