TIME Innovation

StoreDot: Another Promising, Far-Off Answer to Smartphone Battery Problems

"Nanodot" technology could charge your phone in 30 seconds, but is years away from the mass market.

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Every so often, we hear about new technology that’s supposed to save smartphone battery life. But most of these advances are still in the lab stage, unfit for public demonstration.

StoreDot is a little different. The Tel Aviv-based startup isn’t claiming to increase smartphone battery life, but instead says it can charge a dying phone in less than a minute. And for the skeptics, StoreDot demonstrated the technology on a Samsung Galaxy S4 on Monday during Microsoft’s Think Next symposium.

Keep in mind that StoreDot’s real advances are in the battery, not the charger. StoreDot is using a new battery chemistry that features “nanodots” derived from bio-organic material. These nanodots are used in both the electrode, which stores the battery’s energy, and the electrolyte, which transfers energy between the battery’s anode and cathode ends. StoreDot says the electrical properties of these nanodots allow the electrode to charge much faster, while still discharging at a rate similar to conventional lithium-ion batteries. And because the technology is based on naturally occurring organic compounds, it’s supposedly cheap to produce.

Although the demo is impressive, it will face some hurdles on the road to commercialization. In the current demo, StoreDot’s battery is physically larger than the one inside Samsung’s Galaxy S4, but its capacity is smaller. So while it can charge much faster, it won’t last as long on a charge. StoreDot says it’s working on the capacity issue and hopes to reach its goal of matching conventional batteries within a year. The charger is much larger as well–though StoreDot says it’s working on reducing the size–and it’ll be roughly twice as expensive as a normal charger. Finally, the phone itself needs to be modified to accommodate a high current during charging, but again, StoreDot says it’s hoping that users could eventually drop the battery into existing phones.

There’s also the issue of raising money and mass-producing a product. StoreDot says it has a “large Asian smartphone manufacturer” as a strategic investor, and the company has recently raised $6 million according to The Next Web. Still, StoreDot isn’t planning to begin mass production until late 2016. As I’ve written before, the testing phase for the safety and longevity of new battery technology can take a long time, and that’s a big reason so many solutions are still years away.

In other words, StoreDot is yet another company facing big challenges as it tries to revolutionize smartphone batteries. But it has a working demo and a timeline for commercialization, and that’s got to be worth something.

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