StoreDot: Inside the nanotech that can charge your phone in 30 seconds

StoreDot: Inside the nanotech that can charge your phone in 30 seconds

Summary: If you've ever had just five minutes to charge your smartphone's flat battery and wished it didn't take an hour, help is at hand. An Israeli company is working on a nano-material that could see your mobile fully charged in just seconds.

StoreDot's labs in Ramat Gan. Image: Niv Lilien

In offices in a dusty street near the Diamond Exchange building in Ramat Gan, something interesting is afoot: a company called StoreDot is working on battery technology that many mobile users will have been longing for for some time.

The basis of StoreDot's work was discovered during a University of Tel Aviv research project into Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that a certain peptide molecule that 'shortens' neurons in the brain causing Alzheimer's was also seeming to show high capacitance, thanks to an ability called 'charge trapping' — where electrons are effectively held in place.

According to Professor Gil Rosenman, who worked on the project and is now StoreDot's chief scientist, two of these molecules can be used to create a viable crystal only two nanometers long. These crystals form the NanoDots at the heart of Storedot's technology.

Artificially synthesised from the same building blocks — elements such as oxygen and hydrogen — as natural peptides, these NanoDots could prove disruptive to multi-billion-dollar industries such as batteries, displays, image sensors, and non-volatile memory.

Doron Myersdorf, former head of SanDisk's SSD division and now StoreDot's CEO, says that the company has decided to focus on NanoDots' uses in smartphone related technologies, including faster memory; more sensitive camera sensors ultrafast-charging batteries; and flexible, energy-efficient displays.

Founded in 2012, StoreDot is now chiefly concentrating on the last two areas. Demoing this week at Microsoft's ThinkNext event in Tel Aviv, StoreDot showed a prototype of a battery using NanoDots — powering a standard Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone — that charged from flat to full in under a minute.

How does it work? The NanoDots cover the tiny 'cavities' that cover an electrode found in a standard battery, extending its reactive surface, and allowing its capacity to be increased tenfold.  Through the addition of the NanoDots, the electrode becomes "multi-function" — at one end, the electrode stores electrical energy creating a capacitor, and at the other, lets it flow into the battery's lithium.

In layman's terms, StoreDot has created a 'buffer' that stores electrical current coming from the wall socket over a period of around thirty seconds, then letting it flow slowly into the lithium. Myersdorf says that eventually, the company plans to get rid of the lithium in the battery altogether.

Changing the chemical reactions occurring inside the battery should also improve battery life in long run — allowing thousands of charge cycles instead of hundreds today — while still keeping the same weight and form factor.

The NanoDots have other intriguing qualities too. When embedded into polymer and everyday screens, they can replace the toxic materials like cadmium used in modern displays. They can also be manufactured in different colours, using a special version of basic colours to create a full, rich colour matrix.

StoreDot's team, at the behest of manufacturers, is using blue backlighting instead of white, and the NanoDots can be used in both LCD an bio-LED screens — or, in Myersdorf's words: "We can do displays for both Samsung and Apple", a reference to the different display technologies each company is using today (Apple with LCD, Samsung with organic LED).

StoreDot already has prototype displays in its lab, and showed me this week how it's lighting a standard iPhone display. There's not a full colour range yet — only 70 percent — but the company is working towards more than a full NTSC colour gamut. StoreDot future displays are equally free of toxic materials and, as a bonus, they're flexible too.

The NanoDots also have applications in the pharmaceutical industry as drug delivery agent and could one day replace metals such a gold or silver currently needed to penetrate cell membranes and deliver the active ingredient.

With several patents filed and several more pending, as well as a big smartphone company onboard as an investor, Myersdorf intends to have his company's products ready for marketing in 2015 and on sale in 2016. But don't rejoice too much just yet: StoreDot's new batteries will cost twice as much as the regular ones.

Read more on batteries

Topics: Emerging Tech, Hardware

Niv Lilien

About Niv Lilien

Niv Lilien is a senior technology writer, and the former technology section editor for ynetnews. Currently, Niv writes regularly for several of Israel's most prominent media outlets.

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  • Cost

    So the new battery is predicted to cost twice as much as the standard one we get at the moment.

    So for double the cost I can charge my device in a few seconds instead of hours and I get better longevity? Pretty much a no brainer, methinks.
  • I think they need to expand this into electric car industry.

    if what they say is true, ca nthis tech. scale to power up a car?
    if it makes the EV battery smaller too than you can fit more capacity into the same space and increase the EV range in the same time you are reducing the charging time.

    I can see now, a 100Mi range with 10 min recharge would be perfect setup.
    keep the current gas station just retrofit gradually to supply less gas but more charging spaces.
    • EV Application of StoreDot Tech

      My thoughts exactly.

      Beyond the transition from research to production, the 2X cost would be a roadblock. Battery cost is already 30% of the cost to produce an EV, so doubling the battery cost is a huge problem. An EV's cost penalty over petrofuel vehicles is already a volume limiter.
      Maybe the quoted 2X cost penalty can be worked out over time and volume.
  • Can it be?

    I'll believe it when I see it in production.
  • This was on the News last night

    The battery was a brick connected to a S3 and the charger looked like the kind of device my dad used to charge his car battery with 40 years ago.

    Now I've read a bit more about the tech some of the issues I had about it have gone. All that's left is two very important questions.

    (1) Can they, and when will they, be able to produce it in a sensible usable size.

    (2) How much more is this going to cost ... because at the very least we wont be able to use USB ports for charging any more.

    Seems to me that this company has a good idea, but no marketable product and is looking for publicity to shake out some funding to help them get over this obvious hurdle.

    I wouldn't expect to see anything on the market for a long time.

    Due to size and power requirements, I would have thought that this technology would have been much more suited to début in electric cars rather than mobile phones. So I'm left wondering why they chose the mobile phone market.
  • Will tesla be interested?

    Imaging a magnetic induction station that your electric car batteries are charged while you are in the drive through for coffee or breakfast

    better yet, pull through a charging station that is similar to the toll booths ... perhaps driving 20 mph though the induction filed and 'batteries fully charged along with an appropriate charge on the credit card as well ... hmm ... would i be so concerned over the costs?

    wise frog
    Wise Frog
  • New innovations

    The process should now be applied to other uses, like home appliances and new methods.
    Which I do have many more ideas on how and where to apply them.
    Malcolm Manby