Smartphones charge in a minute with bio-battery

Smartphones tethered to the wall could become a thing of the past. Q4 2016 will see the arrival of batteries that charge quicker than anything seen before.

iFixit iPhone 6 teardown showing battery

A torn-down iPhone with its existing, current battery.

Credit: iFixit

Better batteries? In the words of one Reddit user: "OMG, not this again."

But wait, there's more, as the expression goes. There's a reason that new battery technology piques our interest whenever we hear about it. Batteries are the last insurmountable hindrance to the seductive idea of total nomadism and blissful un-tethered freedom.

Murphy's Law

Batteries are one technology that haven't really seen a Moore's law-esque periodic doubling of capacity. Moore's law says that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years.

Even cellphones have a law: Cooper's Law, named after the inventor of the cellphone, Marty Cooper. Cooper's Law dictates that spectral efficiency doubles every 30 months.

But batteries have been more like Murphy's Law. Although slowly getting better, they're still lumbering, heavy, and pretty inefficient.

However, new chemistry developed in Israel might change that soon.

Bio-organic nano-crystal

Tel Aviv University-based electrical engineers have discovered that a certain kind of molecule can absorb a charge faster than other types.

The researchers found it when looking for an Alzheimer's cure.

The company that they've set up, called StoreDot, is marketing the patented discovery.

StoreDot describes its peptide molecule product as the first bio-organic nano-crystal ever. Peptide molecules are naturally occurring biological molecules—a chain of amino acids. They're similar to proteins.

Charging in one minute

Nanodots, as StoreDot calls them, can be used in batteries because they have a high-electrode capacitance and can rapidly absorb and hold a charge. In one experiment, the scientists fully charged a Samsung device in 30 seconds.

Manufacturing

The tech is promising. Manufacturing these bionanodots should be relatively inexpensive because they originate naturally and self-assemble biologically. However, the charger will be a big hit, cost-wise.

The charger is roughly the size of a laptop charger; according to an article on a Tel Aviv University website.

The university website article reckons that the charger will cost twice that of an existing 5-volt smartphone charger.

The reason is that it's not normal. It provides 80 amps, which is what's needed to boost the nanodots. A normal smartphone charger provides one or two amps, for comparison.

Capacity issues

There are some other drawbacks. Primarily, capacity isn't as great as existing smartphone batteries—the new batteries will charge in one minute when on the market, but only hold a third of the juice.

Commercial production is expected to start in late 2016.

And there isn't any battery weight reduction with the new tech. It weighs the same as the batteries in our existing devices.

Doron Myersdorf, founder and chief executive of StoreDot, said in an interview with the Guardian that handsets overall will become more innovative. The speed of the charge compensates for any drawbacks, according to the company.

The old days

The original 2.5-pound cellular telephone, known as "the brick," featured 20 minutes of talk time, followed by a 10-hour charge. Marty Cooper, who invented the device, along with the associated law, wasn't bothered by short battery life then.

He said that a 20-minute battery life wasn't really a problem because you couldn't hold that phone up for that long.

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