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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014
What if your phone's battery never let you down
Rajiv Makhni , Hindustan Times
April 18, 2014
First Published: 15:18 IST(18/4/2014)
Last Updated: 15:19 IST(20/4/2014)
Techilicious columnist Rajiv Makhni

The World’s biggest phobia is now officially called ‘NoMo’. It’s the dreaded thought of facing a life in which you either lose you mobile phone or it gets stolen, and pretty much your entire life that exists within your phone is gone. The prospect of ‘No Mobile’ can lead to serious mental anguish and confusion. But another neurosis now catching up with ‘NoMo’ is the all-new (and quite nightmarish) ‘BAD’.

This stands for the ‘Battery Almost Dead’, a state of mind in which your brain gets clouded, you become almost scared to touch your phone, a sense of doom and gloom takes over, palpitations start as you sweat profusely and a deep dark depression sets in. Why? Because you’ve just realised that your phone is once again about to die its premature daily death.

CELL PHONES AND THEIR HARD-CELL

Battery technology hasn’t kept up with mobile phone innovation. There was a time when we used our cellphones for voice calls only and easily got two to three days of actual use. Today the normal battery life you can expect from an active user (one who uses email, Twitter, Facebook, browsing, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS) is just about six hours. The greatest laggard in the world of technology has been battery life. While a lot has been promised, almost nothing new has really surfaced. That may be about to change in a hurry. Here’s a look at how smartphone technology’s Achilles’ heel is getting... a leg up, if you will.

Don’t turn out the light: Within the next two years, indoor lighting as well as solar lighting will charge your phone with the help of WYSIPS.

QUICK CHARGE TO CHARGE AHEAD

An Israeli company has demonstrated technology that will charge your dead phone to a nice, plump, juicy 100 per cent in just 30 seconds. And it’s not the battery that needs an overhaul, just the charger. While I won’t bore you with too much of technical gobbledygook, I will say that its bio-organic nanodot conductive crystals will help achieve this rapid charging magic.

Of course, this won’t help prolong battery life, but at least you won’t be waiting around for your phone to spark back to life. Wherever you may be, a 30-second booster shot is all you’ll need to be fully charged. StoreDots’ charger is currently huge and unwieldy, but by 2016, it’ll be the size of your normal phone charger.

I can foresee this built into charging stations at all public places, built into your car electric point, at every office, coffee shops and pretty much any place where you can spare 30 seconds.

CHARGE FROM YOUR SCREEN ITSELF

Booster shot: The StoreDots’ charger will give 0-100 per cent battery in flat 30 seconds.

The greatest problem with solar charging is that photovoltaic cells have no place to actually absorb energy on a phone. The biggest surface of any phone is the back or the front. The back is convenient for the cells, but a terrible place to charge them – our phones face upwards even when we put them down on a table.

Read: Can Samsung shrug off its 'cheap plastic' tag with Galaxy S5?

The solution: photovoltaic cells built into the screen itself. ‘What You See is the Photovoltaic Surface’ (WYSIPS, in short. Yes, really!) will have silicon solar cells embedded into your super-large phone display. Indoor lighting and sunlight will both be able to offer 50 per cent more battery life through the day.

The challenges lie in making sure these cells don’t dim the screen too much and don’t screw up the touchscreen part of the display. Expect to see this technology within two years.

POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME
Fuel cells have been the holy grail for battery tech for a long time. A battery unit that gives 10 times more power per square inch and can be recharged by just adding in a few drops of a fuel every few weeks. Imagine if that fuel was just sugar, the thing that fuels all living cells on Earth.

Researchers at Virginia Tech have successfully created a sugar-powered fuel cell that uses 13 enzymes, plus air, to produce 10 times the energy density of the lithium-ion batteries in your mobile phone right now.

Imagine getting about 10 to 15 days of battery life from your smartphone and then pouring in a solution of maltodextrin to get another 15 days. That battery is also environmentally friendly as it produces just water and electricity.

Read: It’s war of the smartphones

Give me some sugar: Researchers have successfully created sugar-powered fuel cells that can produce 10 times more energy than your current batteries do.
Once again, this should be ready as a commercial product by 2016. There are a lot of other ways that battery life is being jumpstarted. From better chemistry inside the battery itself (like carbon nanotubes, graphene and even lithium mixing with outside air).

One of the most promising is the use of silicon (the only problem is that silicon expands when charged and contracts when its out of battery life. Thus, imagine a phone that’s nice and fat when fully charged and anorexic when dead).

Also on the cards are phones that harvest energy from the environment through kinetic energy or even radio and Wi-Fi signals. Thus your phone won’t just latch onto the signal, it’ll actually convert part of that into energy and power your battery.

There is no doubt that current battery technology truly sucks! The good part is that the quest for real, practical, usable, ready for use has finally begun.

RajivMakhni  is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

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