In today’s modern world, there’s massive commercial reward for battery companies who can produce affordable, lightweight and high energy density battery packs. From smartphones and tablet computers through to electric cars, entire industries rely on continuing evolution of the humble battery pack.
To date, we’ve mainly seen companies focus on energy density and production costs, producing batteries which can store more energy per unit mass than previous generations and cost less to make. But at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, one Israeli firm is demonstrating a rapid charge battery technology that can replenish a mobile telephone from empty to full in less time than it takes to boil a kettle.
And it says it’s about to bring that same technology to the electric car world too, resulting in electric cars that can be recharged from empty to full in the same time it takes a gasoline car to fill up with premium.
Enter StoreDot, a company which has raised more than $42 million in funding for its bio-organic, self-assembled ‘nanodot’ technology. According to its official website — which we’ll admit is full of lots of words but light on explanation — nanodots are made of “the first bio-organic nano crystal ever discovered” measuring just 2 nanometers in length.
“Nanodots are bio-organic peptide molecules that change the rules of mobile device capabilities,” the site helpfully continues. And while we love science, we think it might be easier to think of them as tiny, superheroes of the nanotechnology revolution. That’s because unlike other nanotechnology solutions, nanodots are non-toxic, made from abundant biological materials and if constructed in the correct way, have an amazing array of possible applications.
In addition to being very uniform in their shape and size, nanodots have the ability to naturally emit red, green or blue light, making them perfect for use in next-generation displays. But they also happen to transfer data faster than traditional silicon-based electronics, can easily cross the brain-blood barrier in the human body to allow drugs to target specific parts of the brain with unparalleled precision, and can dramatically improve the conductivity and energy storage capabilities of electrodes.
If you’ve heard of StoreDot before, you’ll know that last year the company demonstrated its technology by retrofitting a standard smartphone with a specially-designed nanodot battery pack and recharging said battery pack from empty to full in 30 seconds.
But while the demonstration was impressive, it relied on a bulky specially-designed harness which made the phone unwieldy to use.
This year, StoreDot’s CES demonstration showcased a brand-new generation of nanodot battery pack, one which is small enough to fit inside the case of a conventional smartphone and can store as much energy as a stock battery pack.
The firm’s CEO Doron Myersdorf told the BBC this week that the battery itself was comprised of a mesh-like structure consisting of an undisclosed polymer and metal oxide laced with nanodots,
“It acts on one hand like a supercapacitor that charges very fast, and on the other hand like a lithium-ion battery,” he told the BBC in an interview ahead of the CES show. “So this combination is a new generation of battery.”
“It allows us to charge very fast, moving ions from an anode to a cathode at a speed that was not possible before we had these materials,” he continued.
For now, the firm has only built smartphone-sized battery packs for demonstration purposes. But in a year’s time Myersdorf says, the company will demonstrate a full-size electric car battery pack that can recharge itself in three minutes. Claiming interest from several unnamed electric automakers, the firm is confident its technology could change the plug-in world forever.
We’ll admit the technology and the dream behind it is appealing. If plug-in cars could be recharged in minutes rather than hours, it could finally swing plug-in vehicles into the mainstream market as truly competitive alternatives to gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.
But as with any impressive technology demonstration, the hardest part is taking a small-scale academic possibility and making it a viable, reproducible, economically-sustainable reality.
And that’s a tough, tough task.
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