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Byproduct of Alzheimer's research: A smartphone that will recharge in one minute!

batteries

via Flickr © JohnSeb (CC BY 2.0)

Longer-life, higher capacity, quicker-charging batteries have long been the holy grail of the global electronics and telecoms industries. The rewards of any such breakthrough will be immense but the technical challenges inherent in perfecting new battery technologies based on new and different chemistries are proving very hard (and expensive)to surmount. It's all very well to demonstrate a jury-rigged experimental new battery in a research lab and entirely another thing to scale that up to a commercial production.

However, it is acknowledged that it is somewhat easier to work on next-generation smart phone and tablet batteries than it is to produce batteries of sufficient capacitance and 'oomph' to power cars and other vehicles at the same sort of speed and to the same sort of range as is the norm for a car on a tankful of volatile hydrocarbons.

In an increasingly saturated global market, smartphone and tablet device manufacturers are only too well aware that survey after survey of consumers shows that what users now want most is a moratorium on embedded power-guzzling apps, longer-life batteries and shorter charging time. That is why there is much interest in the developments announced by an Israeli start-up company StoreDot. The company which claims that it has developed a phone battery that can be charged in a minute.

The new technology is a byproduct of nanotechnology research conducted by the University of Tel Aviv in pursuit of a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Scientists there have discovered than a particular peptide molecule that affects brain neurones has the inherent ability to retain an electrical charge for long periods. In other words it has been found that a chain of amino acid can act as a capacitor.

Combining these molecules produces a minute crystal a mere two nanometers in size. StoreDot uses these 'nano dots' to make batteries that can charge very quickly and hold the charge very well.

A three-pipe problem with a three-part solution

Research into viable new battery technology is one of Sherlock's Holmes's most difficult "three-pipe-problems" if ever there was one. And StoreDot's solution, is, like Gaul under Caesar, divided into three parts. There is the battery itself, a new type of superfast charger and redesigned circuitry within the handset itself that enables a more efficient use of the power available.

StoreDot was founded by Doron Myersdorf. He says the system is based around the new charger which "can pump 40 to 50 amps of current into a phone battery and can even go as high as 80 amps to charge the battery in one minute. That's why we had to develop a very strong charger that is cost effective and small enough to fit into a pocket."

He adds, "The whole anxiety thing of your phone going dead goes away because your phone can be re-charged in 60 seconds."

The downside of the new system is that the charge lasts for just a third as long as fully charged, traditional/conventional handset batteries do presently. Doron Myersdorf fully accepts the current limitation, says it will improve in later iterations and expects that by 2018 the length of charge will be the same as for today's conventionally powdered handsets. He is sure that despite the current shorter talk and standby period, the ability to recharge a device, in just a minute, more than compensates for the drawback.

He says, "Once you have what is to all intents and purposes an unlimited battery life - and really that is what we are offering - phone usage will change. You can have new power-hungry apps and services that today will drain a conventional battery all to quickly."

Prototypes of the StoreDot system are under trial now. They weigh the same as today's batteries. The display of handset with StoreDot fitted shows a dial with a second-by-second countdown dial as the device recharges. Myersdorf claims that most users will only have to recharge their handsets once a day, during the day, whilst heavy users may have to recharge twice. But, as he points out, "That's just two minutes a day rather than several hours overnight."

To date, StoreDot has received US$48 million from a variety of backers, one of whom is known to be Samsung of Korea.

StoreDot calculates that it will cost manufacturers about US$40 to embed the new technology in a handset and Doron Myersdorf says his company is already in negotiations with 15 handset makers around the globe. He is confident that production will go ahead and that the company will have signed "at least one or two agreements" by late this year and expects the first phones fitted with the new battery system to be on retail shelves in time for Christmas 2016.

No retrofitting

That might seem aeons away in the constantly transmuting and evolving mobile comms industry but Myersdorf says that's the way it has to be because the new system cannot be retrofitted to current handset designs.

He says, "The problem is that there needs to be a sequence of developments which need to take place in parallel to what we at StoreDot are doing. These are specially designed smartphones based around our charger and international certification that the new embedded batteries are compliant with all the world's safety regimes and requirements.

StoreDot says it has commissioned research that shows 30 per cent of current smartphone owners would be willing to pay up to $50 more for a handset able to charge in a single minute. The plan is to capture a two per-cent market share in Year 1 and six per cent in Year 2.

However, he also admits that, although StoreDot owns a range IPR and patents pertaining to the new charging system, the company is too small to "make it happen" all on its own. He adds, "If one of the big guys feels, as we do, that this is an industry game-changer, they can make it happen.

StoreDot also says that although it's current focus is on smart phones the fast-charge technology could also be used to improve the range and thus the appeal of electric cars. The company claims that its technology would allow an electtric car to power-up from zero in just five minutes and that the short charge would permit a driving distance of 150 miles at 55 miles per hour.

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