Tech Trends 2018 --6
A dying battery is the mobile phone owner's biggest pain point. But help is on the horizon
Bangalore, January 6 2018: The computing power of your mobile phone, grows exponentially every year. Today’s octa-core processor, offers an eight-fold improvement of performance in less than 4 years. RAM memory, storage, camera specs — everything becomes bigger, better by the month.
But there is one laggard inside your phone: the battery that fuels your phone. It just doesn’t measure up to the demands made by today’s users. Do you long for the day when a full charge was good to go for a week?
Li-ion King: Sadly, the technology behind the most popular battery material, Lithium Ion — a compound of Lithium as the positive electrode, carbon or graphite as the negative pole and a salt of Lithium as the semi fluid in between — has hardly evolved since the turn of the century. What has changed is the speed at which one can recharge the phone battery. Technologies like Qualcomm's QuickCharge, Oppo'sVOOC Flash Charge or the OnePlus Dash Charge, can cut the time for a full charge to half an hour or so. Their collective mantra is Less time in the socket, more time in the pocket!
But unless your phone has one of those jumbo batteries of 5000 mAh or more, you will still run down your battery in a working day. So, we may have to live with the Li-ion King for a few more years. But there are some interesting developments:
Sunny Li-ion: Solar chargers are available for phones -- but they are slower than mains chargers. Scientists at McGill University and the Hydro-Québec’s research institute are working on a single device capable of harvesting and storing energy using light. In other words, a self-charging battery. The study shows that the cathode or negative electrode of a lithium-ion battery can be “sensitized” to light by incorporating photo-harvesting dye molecules. The team is racing to try and build the world’s first 100% self-charging lithium-ion battery.
Supercapacitors: Eesha Khare, an Indian-origin student in the US made global headlines when she took a top prize at the Intel Science Fair three years ago with her invention, a Super Capacitor, that could charge an existing phone battery in 30 seconds. She is now a student at Harvard but continues to work with Intel mentorship, to commercially market her brainchild. But sine this is a solo effort it is difficult to set a time line.
Battery-free phones: In July 2017, two Indians at Washington State University: Vamsi Talla and Shyam Gollakota demonstrated the world's Skype call made from a mobile phone without a battery. Using commercial-off-the-shelf components, they created a prototype of a cell phone without battery, that operated on power that is harvested from Radio Frequency signals transmitted by a mobile base station about 10 metres away. They supplemented this power by harvesting power from ambient light using tiny photodiodes.
But can a mobile phone perform all these functions, in real time, using only a few micro-watts of power generated without a battery? They eliminated the most power-hungry steps in mobile phones and brought down the requirement to around 3-4 microwatts, a fraction of what phones today gobble up. Now they are working to see if the RF signals can be drawn from the nearest cell tower -- and we have plenty of those all around us.
They are working to commercialize the tech and it could well happen in a few years. (IndiaTechOnline)