Warning: Low Battery
Is your phone always on low battery? Do you feel glued to outlets because of your need to charge your phone constantly? A recent poll conducted in New York showed that most people charge their phones 2.6 times a day, while 84% experienced anxiety about having anxiety over low-battery on their phone. Even crazier, a 2012 study shows that 77% of Americans are nomophobes – a real condition documented as a fear of having no mobile battery or coverage. The symptoms for nomophobia include feelings of desperation or panic when separated from your smartphone, not being able to focus on work or conversations, and regularly checking your phone for notifications. A more extreme condition called cellphone vibration syndrome is where some people may think their phone is ringing when it's not. But even those who don’t suffer from cellphone vibration syndrome are constantly looking at their phone as 67% of cell phone owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. Yet when people were surveyed at 6 pm New Yorkers’ average battery life was at 38.93% and that number dropped to 23.13% by 10 pm. Clearly so many people are on their phones and want them to be charged but most don’t have the time or resources to constantly charge their phones. So while people always want to be connected, the biggest obstacle is their phone’s battery life.
A new Israeli startup called StoreDot has come up with an innovative battery and charger that might be the next biggest thing in cell phone technology. This has led to StoreDot being named Globes most promising startup of 2015. StoreDot was started in 2012 and was born out of the nanotechnology department at Tel Aviv University. It was founded by Doron Myersdorf (the current CEO) and Tel Aviv University professors Simon Litsyn and Gil Rosenman. Myersdorf has a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and management, and two other degrees from the Technion. Before StoreDot, Myersdorf founded and managed two Silicon Valley startups, and worked for SanDisk earning over $100M in revenues. The first prototype was for the Samsung’s Galaxy 4 but since has been expanded to many other products. The professors stumbled upon the battery compounds while experimenting with flash memory for Alzheimer’s research. StoreDot currently has 47 employees and has plans to grow to 60 employees by the end of 2015. The company has raised $66 million from backers including Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich and Samsung Ventures. StoreDot plans on revolutionizing the current cell phone battery market as well as expanding to other applications of their nano-technology.
The newest product set to hit the open markets in 2016 is the FlashBattery for smartphones. StoreDot’s novel technology has optimized capacity, fast charging, and extended battery-life, in addition to enhancing its safety. The FlashBattery is such a quick charging battery that absorbs enough power in just 1 minute that it can last an entire day. Compared to the hour and a half it usually takes for the average device to recharge, these results are revolutionary. Using a unique hybrid multifunction electrode (MFE), the FlashBattery combines two types of energy storage solutions. It takes the high-power and quick charging speed of a supercapacitor (SC) with the battery storage ability and low battery usage rate of a Lithium-Ion battery (LiB). In addition, StoreDot uses groundbreaking organic compounds made in its labs, to reduce charging time while increasing power capability.
This new battery will have to replace pre-existing batteries as most phones would be fried by the large amount of electricity the current version of the charger supplies. StoreDot plans to enter the phone, tablet, and laptop market but will have to ensure that the battery is small enough to fit into all phones, as prototype models have been bigger than current phone batteries. Unfortunately for consumers, even though StoreDot raised 42 million dollars in recent months for their prototype, they don’t plan on having their battery hit the market before 2016. The FlashCharger will be available in pocket, standard, and car sizes, and is said to cost 30 percent more than today’s versions, which will add as much as $100 to a phone’s retail price. That being said, since charging is so fast, a home or office would only require one FlashCharger to charge all the family members and co-workers’ devics.
Other products that feature a rapid charging option usually shorten overall battery life. By, contrast, FlashBattery can withstand thousands of charge/discharge cycles and extend battery life to 3 years of operation. The materials and battery structure increases charge cycles from the standard 500 in LiBs to 2,500 cycles in FlashBattery, which is a 500% increase! Additionally, the FlashBattey cannot overcharge which is a common problem in the current batteries leading to shorter battery lives.
These breakthroughs inspired StoreDot to expand its applications to electric cars. One of the biggest problems for electric cars is how long it takes to fill up the battery and it is a big contribution to “range anxiety” fears. It would make a huge difference to drivers if they were confident in the knowledge that they could get a five minute fill up. Another huge problem was the heat the current electric car batteries produce. With the intense heat battery lives are shortened in half reducing the usual 500-600 charges to 200-300. In May 2015, StoreDot announced at the Microsoft ThinkNext Contest in Tel Aviv that it had started working on a technology that will fully charge electric vehicles in 5 minutes, which will go a long way towards solving people’s “range anxiety” fears. StoreDot also developed new organic materials that make very little heat. This change improves the original amount of cycles almost four times to around 1500-2000 charges.
Another potential issue with StoreDot’s model is that you clearly need a powerful electrical infrastructure to produce the energy for this super quick charge so it's unlikely that people will have them at their personal homes. In StoreDot’s own words, their solution is that people will make “a 5-minute stop at a local refueling station for a full tank that can last for three hundred miles.” But to obtain this high amount of energy in these charging stations the company will need government support. The cost of a StoreDot car battery will be about 20 to 30 percent higher than the current lithium-ion batteries mainly because of the expensive organic materials. However, for electric vehicle owners the cost could go down nearly 50% per mile over the electric vehicle’s lifetime. The first important improvement is it will require much fewer battery replacements as these new batteries don’t deteriorate as quickly and have three times the amount of life cycles. StoreDot expects that we will see the first product late in 2016 and be ready for the commercial market by 2017.
The two biggest problems for batteries have been the size and the time needed to recharge and amazingly StoreDot has found solutions for both. Current electric vehicle technology has maxed out in range with the Tesla Model S 85 kWh, which can go 265 miles. Only one other electric vehicle, the Toyota’s RAV4 EV, can go more than 100 miles on one charge. If StoreDot is successful they could create the greatest electric car to date which could greatly affect the current electric car market and popularity.
After all this groundbreaking work, StoreDot has a future goal of using its technology to enhance various electronics areas such as superfast Flash memory and bio-lasers. An even bigger impact could be made in an area called “nano-medicine” improving significantly drug delivery, food security, bio labeling and more. The applications of this nano-technology do have their downsides as people might become even more addicted to their phones and other electronic devices.
Looking back at StoreDot’s core competency, their battery technology, it’s clear that they are on the verge of something special. "Battery technology is the single biggest challenge holding back the consumer electronics industry right now," says Ben Wood from the CCS Insight Consultancy. If StoreDot is able to crack battery technology and make substantial improvements, it could change the way use our cellphones, cars, and other technological devices as well, and will potentially save people time, money, and energy in the process.