Every year, some 50 million lithium-ion laptop batteries find their way to the trash heap. IBM researchers in India have come up with a better idea. Many of those batteries still contain useable cells, which can be used to keep the lights on in homes without reliable access to the grid.

As Technology Review reports, scientists at IBM Research India found that 70 percent of discarded laptop batteries were still functional enough to take on a second life as battery packs for LED lights. They took apart discarded batteries, harvested the individual cells that were still working, and added some extra pieces to make a battery pack. The packs could power LED lights at least four hours a day and potentially last a year.

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As an initial test, the researchers gave the battery packs to five people in Bangalore, who used them in the slums or for their sidewalk carts. It was deemed a success, and an improved version is now being tested on the streets. Not bad for what we thought was useless trash. [Technology Review]

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