By Santiago la Rotta
A new edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) began in Barcelona, one of the most relevant technology events of the year and which, as its name indicates, groups together solutions and products for mobile environments.
Typically, the MWC serves as a showcase to highlight the innovation happening in the mobile sector which, as with the rest of technology, follows a route in which more is usually synonymous with better.
Despite all its benefits and opportunities, technology is one of the sectors of the economy with one of the largest environmental liabilities. The equation is easy: practically any product and innovation that debuts at MWC runs on electricity and, well, power generation is one of humanity's great problems today. A quick transitive would say that everything shown in this event is an extra grain for a problem that, at least in part, is presented as impossible to solve.
Energy is the keyword at Energic Plus, a Belgian company that specializes in the regeneration of batteries used in industrial mining and telecommunications operations, to name two examples. “A battery of this type has a useful life between three to five years. Usually, the atmospheric conditions or the same use causes that number to be reduced by half due to the sulfation of the equipment. Our team removes the sulfate crystals that are created in the battery, thus restoring its useful life ”, says Didier Bougarel, sales manager for France, Africa and the Middle East of the company.
Sulfate removal is done by an electromagnetic pulse that converts this element into materials that are incorporated back into the battery. In other words, this process does not produce toxic waste. "Our equipment consume energy to carry out the process, but in the long run the recovery of a battery is more environmentally friendly and makes more sense for the finances of companies, which are beginning to see these services as an investment.
The Energic Plus process recovers more than half the original capacity of an average battery. The company offers services for more than 600 clients in 170 countries and is negotiating a pilot project with Tigo, in Colombia, to apply this technique, which is already used in Brazil and Chile, according to Bougarel.
The MWC dedicated a small space in this edition to highlight companies that have initiatives and products that seek to reduce the enormous carbon footprint of technology in the world. Together with Energic Plus is the Chinese company BSB, which is introducing a new model of smart battery for industrial use. “This new generation of batteries incorporates a processor that provides accurate data about the use and the internal conditions of the device. This makes it possible to schedule maintenance and extend the life of each of these, which translates into less pollution and greater energy efficiency, ”explained a company spokesperson.
This innovation is particularly sensitive for lead acid batteries, which can be found in industrial applications operating as a response system for power supply failures. The result of continuous monitoring is a doubling of the life time of an average battery of this type.
On the same path of conserving energy is Powerstorm, a company based in the Netherlands that today provides a hybrid energy solution for remote regions, which has been installed in schools and health centers in countries such as Nigeria or Tanzania, in Africa. “We recently launched this project, which involves a container that provides electricity for rural areas, mainly from solar energy generation. This solves the infrastructure and access problems that we find in countries that are far removed from the central electricity grid, ”according to Otis Masso, one of the company's sales managers.
All these initiatives are of vital importance in the modern world. As important, at least, as the technology itself. This if one takes into account that electronic waste is the type of garbage that grows the most in the world. The UN estimates that, for the past year, humanity produced 57,514 kilotons of electronic waste. Of this last figure, at least 8.6% corresponded to Latin America.
It is calculated that a cell phone is composed, on average, by 750 components, between metals, plastics, ceramics and other elements. When recycled, 20% of the total materials in a phone are lost.
Thinking about optimizing the useful life of batteries and devices translates into reducing electronic waste. It would be worthwhile for the green tech section of the MWC to grow next year, as this would be one of the cases where more definitely equals better.
Photo: Santiago La Rotta Part of the products of Energic Plus, a company that specializes in battery regeneration and manufacture.