15 Apr Charging Your Phone Will Soon Be A Walk In The Park
We have all, at some point, experienced the pains of charging a mobile device.
The frantic search for an available wall charger, the untangling of a web of charging cables and the excruciating wait for that red battery to become green are inconveniences we would all most certainly prefer to avoid.
However, attaching your devices to an individual wall charger will soon become a thing of the past. Technologies around mobile device charging are evolving every day, which may bring a future where we are able to charge our devices with our shoes or our sunglasses in a fraction of the time.
Here is a sneak peek into what the future of mobile phone charging will look like.
Charge Your Phone In 30 Seconds
Thanks to two recent innovations in battery technology, in the future, charging our phone batteries may only take a few seconds.
The Amino Acid Charger
Last week Israeli start-up, StoreDot, made the news for their innovative battery device that can supposedly charge a phone in just 30 seconds. Most would find this impossible, but with the help of the acids that make up proteins, StoreDot hopes to make this a reality.
Conceived and developed at Tel Aviv University, the battery uses biological semiconductors to create and store energy. More specifically, amino acids are created and grown into tiny crystals which can be assembled into quantum dots. These biological quantum dots are able to trap and hold an electrical charge and are able to discharge this energy faster than inorganic chemical batteries.
The quantum dots in a typical smartphone battery are made from silicon or other man made compounds using cadmium selenide or zinc sulphide – and as result tend to degrade over time. The battery constructed with the organic amino acids is, by comparison, more efficient, has a longer shelf life and is more environmentally friendly.
Although this technology is still in the prototype phase, the current model – about the size of a laptop brick- can go from dead to fully charged in under a minute. StoreDot intends to spend the next few years refining the technology and making it smaller and hopes to introduce a product onto the market by 2016.
The Supercapacitor Charger
Another device hoping to shorten the time it takes to charge a phone battery emerged just a few weeks ago. California teenager, EeshaKhare, made the news when she won one of the Intel Foundation’s Young Scientist Awards for her battery charger design. Her charger has the potential to charge a mobile phone battery in 20 to 30 seconds through a ‘supercapacitor.’ The capacitor, which fits inside batteries, can store a large amount of energy in a very small space and can hold this energy for a long time. The supercapacitor technology also allows for a longer battery life. Conventional rechargeable batteries typically last for a thousand charge cycles whereas Khare’sdevice can be recharged up to ten-thousand times – making it not only more consumer friendly but more environmentally friendly too. The device has been shown to work on LED light batteries and has a good chance of working successfully in mobile batteries.
Charge Without Wires
Wireless charging is the latest trend in charging technology and is actually currently available for consumer purchase but only compatible with certain devices.The idea behind wireless charging is to eliminate the need for multiple chargers now that it is commonplace to own more than one personal mobile device. The popularisation of wireless charging technology means that in the future you can charge your Samsung, iPad, Kindle and more with one charger.
Currently, most wireless charging solutions involve some kind of flat surface like a mat which contains any number of inductive coupling coils. Once the mat is plugged in, the alternating current from the wall socket flows through the coils and is turned into a changing magnetic field. Once you place your device on the charging pad, the magnetic field will induce electricity inside your device which then recharges the battery.Of course, your device needs to be compatible with inductive coupling for this to work. At the present, there are over 60 mobile devices on the market that support the wireless charging standard (Qi). There are also a number of phone cases that can make your phone compatible with wireless charging, like this one by Incipio.
Solar Power Your Phone
Solar mobile charging is remerging in the market. 2011 saw the release of an inexpensive charging panel that was easily placed on the back of your phone. The only problem was that the panel had to be in full view of the sun at a 90 degree angle for an hour for a mere 20 minutes extra talk time. Needless to say, despite the environmental benefits, it wasn’t overly popular.
However, now we are seeing a new type of solar mobile charging being developed. Sayalee Kaluskar cleverly conceived a much less obtrusive way of harnessing solar energy to power a phone. She has placed a panel of photovoltaic cells, wired to a battery, on the arms of a pair of sunglasses. While you’re walking around in the sun, the cells charge the battery fixed into the arms of the glasses. And how do you convert this into charge for your mobile phone? The arms on these glasses disconnect and reveal a microUSB or lightening connector that you can connect to your phone.This is a great idea for the environmentally conscious, however the innovation is not yet available for consumer purchase.
Charge Your Phone As You Walk
Did you know that it’s possible to charge your phone simply by walking?
In recent times, we have seen a number of developments that promise to turn charging your phone into a walk in the park.
The Shoe Charger
One of the first innovations was the shoe charger invented by Anthony Mutua. The 24year old Kenyan invented a chip that generates electricity when under pressure. The thin chip is placed inside the sole of a walking shoe, and as a person walks the chip harvests and stores the energy created on impact. In order to charge your phone, you can connect the chip and your phone as you are walking or you can connect your phone after completing a walk, as the chip crystals have the capacity to store the electrical energy.
The Backpack Charger
This year, a group of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in America designed a backpack that can capture the energy created by walking.A device, made from plastic sheets which is interlocked with a rhombic grid is placed inside the backpack and it is this device that can capture the energy from the natural vibration of the human walk. As we walk, we shift our weight from side to side and this movement causes the plastic sheets of the device to touch and separate. The constant repetition of this touch and separate action produces an electric current, enough that a walk with a 2 kilogram backpack could power 40 LED lights simultaneously. Heavier backpacks can generate more power, potentially up to 20 watts which is more than enough to charge a mobile phone.
The Movement Charger
Researchers at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute’s Biomimetics Lab have also been developing a technology that will help us charge our devices through walking. They hope to harness the power of the movements involved in running and walking and use this energy to power our personal devices. Professor Iain Anderson, head of the Biomimetics lab describes the theory behind their technology. “When you walk, you flex your legs and strike your heel on the ground, and you swing your arms. The rubbery heel is used to buffer the impact with the ground. Imagine if you could take that buffering, that energy-absorbing bit, and use that in a positive way.”The idea behind this technology was conceived by the US SRI International research institute, but it was the Auckland Institute that developed and fine-tuned it. The technology uses generators to turn the mechanical energy created on impact when your feet hit the ground into electrical energy. And, in order to make technology more comfortable, wearable and practical, the Auckland researchers created small and light-weight generators.
The future of mobile charging technology is bright indeed. Very soon we’ll be able to banish troublesome cables and charge our devices using renewable energy all in a matter of seconds. The best part is, some of these technologies may even be available as early as the end of the year.
Unfortunately, we’re still stuck with our slow wall chargers for the time being.