An Israeli firm claims it has developed technology that can charge a mobile phone in a few seconds and an electric car in minutes, advances that could transform two of the world’s most dynamic consumer industries.
Using nano-technology to synthesize artificial molecules, Tel Aviv-based StoreDot says it has developed a battery that can store a much higher charge more quickly, in effect acting like a super-dense sponge to soak up power and retain it.
While the prototype is currently far too bulky for a mobile phone, the company believes it will be ready by 2016 to market a slim battery that can absorb and deliver a day’s power for a smartphone in just 30 seconds.
“These are new materials, they have never been developed before,” said Doron Myersdorf, the founder and chief executive of StoreDot, whose investors include Russian billionaire and Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich.
The innovation is based around the creation of “nanodots”, which StoreDot describes as bio-organic peptide molecules. Nanodots alter the way a battery behaves to allow the rapid absorption and, critically, the retention of power.
The company has raised $48 million from two rounds of funding, including backing from a leading mobile phone maker. Myersdorf declined to name the company, but said it was Asian.
With the number of smartphone users forecast to reach 1.75 billion this year, StoreDot sees a big market, and some experts think that — with more work — it could be on to a winner.
“We live in a power hungry world … people are constantly chasing a power outlet. StoreDot has the potential to solve this real big problem,” said Zack Weisfeld, who has worked with and evaluated ventures in the mobile phone sector globally.
“They still have some way to go, to deal with size of battery and power cycle rounds, but if solvable, it’s a very big breakthrough,” he told Reuters. A power cycle round refers to the number of times a battery can be re-charged in its lifetime.
Myersdorf said a fast-charge phone would cost $100-$150 more than current models and would ultimately be able to handle 1,500 recharge/discharge cycles, giving it about three years of life.
The electronics maker on Friday announced a “pin-shaped” lithium-ion battery that’s 20 millimeters (.03 inches) long with a diameter of 3.5 mm, about one-twentieth the size of AAA batteries. Panasonic said it’s the smallest in the industry in terms of capacity by volume.
The CG-320 battery has a nominal capacity of 13 mAh and voltage of 3.75 V, which allows for Bluetooth and NFC (near-field communication) links with smartphones.
Its compact form factor and low weight make it ideal for wearable devices such as smart glasses, fitness bands and hearing aids as well as electronic pens, according to Panasonic.
While compact batteries could shrink the overall size of wearables, usability and interfaces help determine how big they are.
“The size, which is the smallest of its kind in the industry, can allow more flexible product design, and high strength and stability of form delivers high reliability,” a spokeswoman for Panasonic wrote in an email.
The battery could also help reduce the size and weight of wearables, she said, adding that the Internet of Things (IoT) is another possible application.
The CG-320′s capacity is lower than that of a wearable battery such as the Jawbone UP24 activity monitor’s 32 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery, but the latter is larger.
Panasonic is developing two more pin-shaped batteries with capacities of 30 mAh and 50 mAh. They’re slightly larger and heavier than the CG-320.
Battery size and power are a key aspect of wearable devices that has been putting a damper on wider-scale development and popularization. The Apple Watch, for instance, will likely require a daily recharge. That can be seen as a big hassle for a device that’s relatively small.
A number of attempts to innovate on materials and control systems for wearable batteries are being pursued.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has tested a prototype battery based on the lithium carbon fluoride (CFx) chemical formula that could go for 10 years or more without a recharge.
Jawbone, meanwhile, doubled the battery charge of the UP24 to two weeks through a firmware update with enhanced algorithms.
Panasonic’s battery is similar to conventional cylindrical lithium-ion batteries. It has negative and positive electrode sheets wrapped around each other inside a small stainless steel tube.
The company plans to mass-produce the battery, with monthly production of 100,000 units and shipping to begin in February.
They may not be as fast or efficient as airport sniffer dogs, but robots are gearing up to take the fight against drug smuggling underwater. Researchers at MIT are working on submersible machines that could use ultrasound to find drugs hidden on ships.
Their prototype, which looks like a bowling ball, is designed to move along the hulls of ships. It could use ultrasound scanning to detect hollow spaces in false hulls and propeller shafts where drugs might be stashed.
Developed by grad student Sampriti Bhattacharyya and Harry Asada, a professor of engineering at MIT, the robot is divided into two halves, one waterproof and the other water-permeable.
The former houses a rechargeable lithium battery and electronics, while the latter contains six pumps that force water out through tubes, driving the bot forward.
The robot can move between 0.5 and 1 meter per second while pressed against the hull of a ship, and its battery charge lasts about 40 minutes.
The submersible was made using 3D-printed structural elements, meaning it could be manufactured for as little as US$600. That’s cheap enough to allow a swarm robot approach, with dozens of machines working in unison to ferret out contraband.
“It’s very expensive for port security to use traditional robots for every small boat coming into the port,” Bhattacharyya was quoted as saying in an MIT News article.
The prototype was recently presented at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Chicago, but tests so far have focused on whether it can travel in a straight line and stay in contact with an underwater surface. It still has to be equipped with an ultrasound sensor.
The researchers hope to add improvements such as batteries that can recharge wirelessly and changes to the propulsion system that would extend operating time to 100 minutes per charge. Performing ultrasound scans without being in contact with a hull is another possible enhancement, since ships can be fouled with barnacles that would hamper the bots.
The anti-smuggling robot follows an effort by consulting company Boston Engineering and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop a tuna-shaped underwater vehicle called BIOSwimmer. That vehicle is designed to inspect flooded bilges and tanks of ships and to use a camera and sonar to detect hull anomalies that might signal the presence of drugs.
Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.
The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”
According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.
Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.
Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.
This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.
In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.
Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.
Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.
SMS Audio’s BioSport In-Ear Headphones, announced at an event will tell you. The headphones are good for people who work out as well as those who just want to check their heart rate, said Brian Nohe, president of SMS Audio, which was founded by rapper 50 Cent, who is the majority owner.
50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, wanted headphones with top-quality audio, fit, form and functionality, Nohe said. The rapper, along with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who is the minority owner of SMS, were scheduled to appear at the event.
The headphones have sensors to measure the heart rate of users, drawing power from a smartphone through an audio jack. No batteries are required. SMS Audio is using technology from Intel in the headphones.
“Open the box, plug it into your smartphone device and it works,” Nohe said.
The earphones will ship worldwide in the fourth quarter this year. The price will be announced later.
The headphones will work with RunKeeper, a popular Android and iOS fitness application that assembles and tracks fitness data.
“The general marketplace is ripe for having more products in this area,” Nohe said. “We understood what was happening with wearable technology and what was going on with biometrics.”
The engineering challenge for Intel was how to draw power and transfer data through an audio jack. Intel also had to figure out the frequencies at which to handle data transfers. The goal was to deliver accurate heart-rate readings.
“It’s a seemingly easy thing to explain, but hard to implement,” said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.
Intel didn’t want to use Bluetooth or other wireless technologies to transfer data, Bell said. Those technologies would require batteries and not fit well within the small size of headphones.
“The best technology is invisible. It’s as much form as it is function,” Bell said. “That’s the road we’re going down.”
Beyond tracking heart rate, headphones could also be enabled to capture more health information, the executives said. Other opportunities are being explored by SMS Audio and Intel.
“You don’t start a strategic alliance and become a one-trick pony,” Nohe said.
The headphone space has gotten attention lately because of Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats Audio, founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.
“Final production of the current Reader model, PRS-T3, was made at the end of May,” a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo wrote in an email Wednesday. “The product will continue to be available until inventory supplies last, which differs by country.”
There are no plans for a successor to the device, she added.
The PRS-T3 was launched last year in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and European states, but was not released in the U.S.
Weighing 200 grams, it has a 6-inch E-ink touchscreen display, an optional night light, Wi-Fi and a battery life of six to eight weeks.
While it’s still available on Sony’s UK site for 99 pounds (US$166), it’s out of stock at Sony’s sites for France and Canada. The PRS-T3 will continue to be sold for the time being in Japan, where Sony maintains its Reader Store.
The company said earlier this year it is closing down its e-book business in North America, Europe and Australia and that users would be transferred to Kobo, owned by Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.
Sony helped pioneer e-readers with a product it launched in Japan 10 years ago, the Librie. Developed with Philips, it was billed as the first commercial device of its kind to use E-ink’s electronic paper display technology.
Beginning with the PRS-500 Portable Reader System in 2006, Sony marketed a series of e-readers that were well received, though some reviewscomplained about its price compared to the features of cheaper rivals.
Sony Reader shipments had exceeded 800,000 units for 2010, according to IDC. But the product was never as popular as competitors from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. By late 2012, Amazon’s Kindle reader was used by over 50 percent of e-book buyers, according to Publishers Weekly.
The market for e-readers peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units, IDC noted last year, adding it expects only modest growth in 2014 after a period of decline. The category was expected to begin a gradual, permanent decline in 2015.
Sony also shed its Vaio PC business this year as it continues to struggle with restructuring efforts.
The portable antenna connects to a smartphone via a Bluetooth Low Energy link. Once connected, users with either an iOS or Android app can then send text messages through the antenna. (The recipient must also have a goTenna, and consequently the product is sold in pairs.)
The device uses the 151MHz-154MHz frequencies, with range depending on location. In a densely populated place like Manhattan, that range could be less than a mile. In more open spaces, up to 50 miles is possible. The antenna, which takes a USB-delivered charge, will store messages and hold them until a connection can be made.
Businesses employ a range of backup communications technologies, including long-range satellite phones and ham radios, as well as shorter range walkie-talkies. The goTenna could serve as an alternative to a walkie-talkie — and even offers some advantages over other options. For example, its messages are encrypted and private, a separate device isn’t needed, and people can use the goTenna system with their smartphone interface.
The goTenna also has the ability to “shout” a message by delivering it to all goTenna users who have opted in to receive a broadcast.
“That fact that we are totally decentralized means that in many ways it can be a backup to your backup,” said goTenna CEO Daniela Perdomo, who co-founded the company with her brother, Jorge Perdomo, goTenna’s CTO.
In addition to using goTenna as an emergency tool, Perdomo said people could use the technology as a means of communicating while they’re traveling, when they’re taking part in outdoor recreation activities, or when they’re involved in any type of situation that requires private communication. The antenna uses a Lithium-ion battery and is estimated to last two to three days with normal use, or as long as 30 hours if it’s on continuously.
Perdomo said the outages created by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 prompted her to imagine ways smartphones could be made to directly communicate with other phones.
The goTenna will ship in late fall, but a pair of the devices can be preordered for $149.99.
The company plans to unveil a 7.5-watt, highly resonant charging system for thin-form devices, such as smartphones and phablets, that can also be expanded to 15 watts for tablets.
Previously, PowerbyProxi’s wireless charging devices offered 3.5-to-5 watts of power.
PowerbyProxi is a component company, so the wireless chargers it plans to demonstrate are proofs of concept. The company has partnerships with companies such as Samsung, Texas Instruments (TI) and Linear who choose to build the technology based on the working prototypes.
The new system – a bowl and an updated box into which enabled mobile devices can be placed — is designed to deliver up to 15W of power to a single tablet, or multiple smartphones and phablets. Ultimately this will be backwards compatible with the Wireless Power Consortium’s (WPC) Qi (pronounced “chee”) standard and forward compatible to resonant v1.2.
“We continue to drive advances in wireless charging technology,” Greg Cross, CEO of PowerbyProxi, said in a statement. “Our contributions to the future specification of the Qi 1.2 standard, will enable better performance and more convenient solutions for consumers.”
For the first time, PowerbyProxi will also demonstrate a wireless charging pad for mobile devices that enables vertical height charging of up to about one and a quarter inches.
Cross said the added distance will enable charging capabilities to be integrated into public locations like restaurants and hotels, as well as furniture and countertops. Charging can occur through materials including wood, plastic and composites, along with the ability to charge multiple devices within a designated area.
PowerbyProxi’s new wireless charging bowl transmitter is designed to charge smaller, personal devices — including wearables — and devices using AA batteries that can receive a wireless charge. Devices can be placed in any position or orientation, even on top of each other. The bowl, which measures about 4-in. in diameter, offers a sleek design and comes in several colors.
The Iconia Tab 8, announced on Friday, features 1920 by 1200 pixel resolution and an Intel Atom quad-core Z3745 processor code-named “Bay Trail.” It follows Acer’s announcement of two smaller 7-inch tablets, the Iconia One 7 and Iconia Tab 7, a month ago.
Both those tablets have a screen resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, and were meant to target lower-end consumers. In the case of the Iconia One 7, the device uses an older Intel “Clover Trail” processor, and has a starting price of $129.99.
The pricing for the Iconia Tab 8 was not disclosed, but Acer wants to build affordable tablets with great value, said Maverick Shih, president of the company’s tablet business, last Thursday.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the features you can find in high-end products,” he added in an interview.
The Iconia Tab 8 weighs 360 grams and has a metallic back cover along with anti-fingerprint coating on its display. The tablet runs Android 4.4 and promises 7.5 hours of battery life when watching videos.
Acer made no mention of its memory features, but the device has a microSD card slot to add more storage. The PC maker also declined to name which markets the product will be available in. But Acer’s Shih said mainland China has become a big focus for its tablet business.
“Before, we didn’t really value the Chinese market enough,” he said. To change that, the company has started a new China-based team focused on tablets, he added.
The Air Force announced this week that researchers with the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, are testing Google Glass for potential battlefield use.
“Since [para-rescue first responders] have the need to recover personnel, it’s beneficial for them to monitor many people at once,” said Andres Calvo, a software developer and civilian contractor with the 711th HPW, in a statement. “The app aims to better enable them to assess who needs urgent medical attention. So, if a (pararescueman) has the need to see somebody’s vitals, immediately and urgently, Google Glass could fill that need.”
The trials are conducted by the Battlefield Air Targeting, Man-Aided Knowledge, or BATMA(N) group, an advanced technology demonstration and research program commissioned by the Air Force Special Operations Command. The group is focused on developing, building and investigating advanced wearable technologies.
Dr. Gregory Burnett, the chief engineer of the BATMAN program, noted in a report that the Air Force is interested in using Google’s wearable computers, which are still in beta testing, to enable soldiers and pilots to interact more easily and improve mission effectiveness.
“We look at visual, auditory and tactile interfaces that serve to leverage all the human perception channels to provide real-time battlefield data in the most intuitive fashion,” Burnett said in the report. “So, if the Airman is visually over-stimulated, we can offload that into auditory information so that he can still process information in a very chaotic scenario.”
The Air Force developed a medical app that is being used with Glass for the parachuting medics. With the app, medics could monitor multiple patients at the same time without taking his hands off patients or his weapon.
The military has sent some soldiers into the battlefield with ruggedized laptops, but the soldiers were limited by the machines’ size, weight and battery life.
Google’s computerized eyeglasses are being used in conjunction with smartphones and tablets also supplied to the soldiers, in case they need to see something on a bigger screen.
At first, the Latitude 12 looks like a laptop. But within the display panel, the screen rotates 180 degrees and the laptop turns into a tablet once placed on the keyboard.
The new Latitude 12 laptop is part of a new Rugged Extreme line of laptops, which also includes the Rugged Extreme 14. The new laptops are robust and can withstand six-foot drops and remain protected from extreme weather conditions.
The laptops have hard covers that add a layer of protection, but also make the products heavy. The Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme weighs 2.72 kilograms with a four-cell battery, while the 14-in. counterpart weighs 3.54 kilograms with a six-cell battery and no optical drive.
The laptops can also withstand solar radiation, “explosive atmosphere” and weather ranging from -20 degrees to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees to 63 degrees Celsius), according to specifications provided by Dell. The products are targeted at field workers like emergency responders and the military, and will compete against Toughbook rugged laptops from Panasonic.
The Latitude 12 rugged laptop has a starting price of $3,649, while the Latitude 14 begins at $3,499. The laptops will ship next month.
The hybrid design in Latitude 12 has been borrowed from the company’s XPS 12 Ultrabook Touch, which has a 12.5-inch screen that can similarly flip to turn the laptop into a tablet. The resistive touch screens on both laptops can show images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
The laptops will have storage options of up to 512GB solid-state drives. Users can configure the laptop with Intel’s latest fourth-generation Core processorscode-named Haswell. The laptops will come with either Windows 8.1 or 7, or Ubuntu Linux operating systems.
Other features include support for up to 16GB of DRAM, Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet through a connector. The laptop also has USB 3.0, USB 2.0, VGA and HDMI ports. Mobile broadband and docking are available as options.
Reusability is large component of any plan to making human life interplanetary, according to the CEO of SpaceX, one of the companies tasked with ferrying cargo, and someday astronauts, to the International Space Station.
And the company will take the first step in trying to prove that point this Sunday when it is scheduled to launch a rocket propelling a craft carrying nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies to the space station.
This time, unlike the two previous SpaceX trips to the space station, the company hopes to recover and hopefully reuse the craft’s rocket in another mission.
This time, the company will try to recover the rocket launched Sunday from the ocean. Future missions, will use “legs” built onto the rocket to gently fall to land.
“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of 100,” said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, in a statement. “A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”
The company noted that its Falcon 9 rocket was built at a cost of about $54 million.
“The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which flies only once,” the company said. “Compare that to a commercial airliner. Each new plane costs about the same as Falcon 9, but can fly multiple times per day, and conduct tens of thousands of flights over its lifetime.”
The SpaceX-3 launch is set for 4:41 a.m. ET Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida,weather permitting.
The Dragon cargo craft will bring 4,969 pounds of cargo to the orbiting laboratory and returning 3,578 pounds to Earth. The cargo being ferried to the space station includes computer hardware, scientific experiments and new spacewalk tools.
SpaceX made its first resupply mission in 2012 and the second last spring.
The South Korean company has a history of launching its products ahead of Mobile World Congress, and this year is no different. Last week, the G Pro 2 arrived and now the company has added the L40, L70 and L90 to its 2014 line-up of phones.
The L90 is the most advanced of the three newcomers. It has a 4.7-inch screen with a 960 by 540 pixel resolution and is powered by a quad-core processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. It also has a 1.3-megapixel front camera and an 8-megapixel rear camera. There is 1GB of RAM and 8GB of integrated storage, as well.
The L70 and the L40 are powered by 1.2 GHz dual-core processors and each have 4GB of integrated storage. The L70 also has a 4.7-inch screen with a 800 by 400 pixel resolution, an 8-megapixel or a 5-megapixel camera and 1GB of RAM. The L40 has a 3.5-inch screen with a 480 by 320 pixel resolution, a 3-megapixel camera and 512MB of RAM.
As part of the development of Android 4.4, Google kicked off “Project Svelte,” an effort to reduce the memory needs of Android so it can “run comfortably” on entry-level smartphones that have as little as 512MB RAM, work that especially the L40 should benefit from. Android 4.4 offers improved performance as well as a more intuitive user interface, according to LG.
In addition to running the latest version of Google’s OS, all three phones also have removable batteries.
LG didn’t announce any details on when the L40, L70 and L90 will arrive in stores or their pricing, but the phones will be on display at Mobile World Congress next week.
Other batteries that are powered by sugar have been developed before but scientists say this one has an unmatched energy density, which enables it to run far longer before needing to be refilled.
These new sugar-based batteries could run smartphones, tablets and video games in three years, according to Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.
“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”
Creating a stronger, longer-lasting, environmentally friendly battery has been getting a lot of research attention.
The U.S. Department of Energy is in the second year of a five-year, $120-million project to spur scientists to find a way to dramatically extend battery life.
Last fall, researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology reported that they had built a flexible battery out of carbon nanotubes that could power everything from tablet computers to electric cars.
Scientists at the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol worked together to come up with a potential way to enable robots to operate without a battery at all. They announced this past November that they built a system that will enable robots to function using an unusual source — urine.
At Virginia Tech, researchers built a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strips all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, inexpensive biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalysts instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.
The fuel cells in the new battery would combine the maltodextrin from the sugar with air to generate electricity.
Since the battery is refillable, more sugar can be added to it like filling the gas tank of a car.
Japan’s Sony Corp has changed its mind and decided not to sell its lithium-ion battery unit. Instead Sony has decided to take a chance at turning the business around with a weak yen and growing demand for smart phone batteries.
In addition to a weak yen, which can boost overseas earnings, the battery unit is also seeing increased demand for some of its new products, the Nikkei business daily reported.
For the past two years Sony had been planning to offload the unit, which was a pioneer in making lithium-ion batteries for computers and mobile devices but has struggled recently against cheaper South Korean rivals.
A government turnaround fund tried to broker a sale of the battery business to a Nissan Motor Co Ltd and NEC Corp joint venture earlier this year.
However, talks have stalled and Sony has now told the turnaround fund that it will hold on to the battery unit and develop it as a core business, the Nikkei reported, citing unidentified sources.
Sony, which last year sold its chemical business to the government turnaround fund, is trying to revive the fortunes of its consumer electronics business by focusing on cameras,gaming and mobile devices.