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PC shipments recover in the US

It’s not all doom and gloom in the PC world… for once. Both Gartner and IDC estimate that PC shipments actually grew in the US for the first time in over a year, climbing in the second quarter to either 4.9 percent according to Gartner (which includes Windows tablets) or 1.4 percent if you ask IDC (which doesn’t). There’s no one answer as to why the computer industry is bouncing back, regardless of who you ask. A stronger US economy is playing a part, but the analyst groups also point to strong Chromebook sales to schools as well as a possible spike in purchases from governments and other public outfits.

Just don’t look at shipments in the rest of the world, as they’re rather ugly. Both Gartner and IDC reckon that worldwide deliveries dropped between 4.5 to 5.2 percent. That’s not as bad as it could have been (IDC was predicting a 7.4-point drop), but you’ll have to forget any visions of an imminent return to the PC’s heyday. Economies are still weak outside of the US, and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are still a higher priority for cash-strapped buyers. Lenovo may have extra reason to worry — its shipments shrank enough that it’s barely holding its market share lead over HP.

On the bright side? While researchers are cautious, they do see ways the industry could climb out of its hole. As upgrading to Windows 10 will soon cost you $119, there’s the chance that people will decide to replace their PCs rather than fork over cash to update existing machines. You could also see the corporate crowd take a serious look at buying Windows 10 computers instead of clinging to aging systems for dear life. Although that amounts to a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” that could easily change, it’s the best hope yet for a PC business that has been declining for years.

Gartner's worldwide PC market share estimate for Q2 2016

Gartner's US PC market share estimate for Q2 2016

Source: Gartner, IDC

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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