Teenager creates device that could charge your phone in under 30 seconds

With so many incredible advances in mobile technology, it can sometimes feel like progress in battery technology isn't exactly keeping up. While our mobile devices can do so much more today than simply make calls and send text messages, many of us often struggle to get through the day on a single battery charge when we make full use of our handset’s capabilities.

But development in battery technology is continuing across the globe, with vast resources being committed to researching breakthroughs in energy storage. In early April, we also reported on micro-battery research at the University of Illinois, which aims to develop batteries that are 30 times smaller than conventional units, but which charge 1000 times faster.

A few weeks ago, we also reported on tech that’s just coming to market, which allows users to charge their handset with a puddle of water and a small portable charging unit with a micro fuel cell. Right now, it’s pretty expensive, but as prices fall with time, it could make a huge difference to those in emerging markets where power supplies can be costly and unreliable, but where mobile devices are becoming increasingly important to individuals and local economies. 

If you’re a regular Neowin reader, you’ll know how much we enjoy celebrating the achievements of young developers and innovators, such as in our regular reports on Microsoft’s Imagine Cup. So we’re delighted to report on a fantastic innovation by another young person, who has won the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, for an extraordinary invention aimed at revolutionising battery technology for mobile devices.

18-year-old Eesha Khare, from Saratoga, California, won the award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2013, for a supercapacitor that she developed, which could enable handsets to be charged fully in under 30 seconds.

Eesha explained that her supercapacitor employs a special nano-structure which also enables the device to squeeze a lot of energy into a very small size and hold its charge efficiently for a long time. Even more impressive is that her creation can last for 10,000 charge cycles, compared with standard batteries which generally last only 1,000 full-charge cycles.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect is that the device can be bent and manipulated while still retaining its full electrochemical properties, offering incredible potential for future generations of flexible handsets and wearable computing devices.

Eesha won a $50,000 prize from Intel, which she says she’ll be putting towards college and future work on scientific advancements. We can’t wait to see what awesome stuff she comes up with next. 

Source: Intel / YouTube | Image via Intel video

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36 Comments

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It will depend on her ability to make wise decisions on who can use/buy her device ie: if she sells it outright or charges for the patent use, if she sells it outright then yeah say goodbye to it

Although after watching the video and hearing her say that when she charged the SCAP for 20 secs she was able to power an LED ooooooo an LED that's so cool so can it run a cell phone um NO um why because it doesn't currently have sufficient capacity

Intel awarded her, got to give the teen benefit of the doubt that her invention could be used useful. Who knows maybe of use for mobile CPU of some sort

This isn't a device that will charge my phone in 30 seconds.
It's a nano capacitor that if it passes safety tests, would be able to replace my battery, and then that nano capacitor could be charged in 30 seconds.

Slightly misleeding.
I'm sure we're all thinking that they'll never release it in a form factor for our current phones anyway, they'll use it as an excuse to try make us buy new phones again some day.

They've been announcing nano capacitor battery replacements for what, 4 years now? none on the market...

Well done! Congrats to her! These days it's not uncommon to see people hanging around with a spare battery in case the first runs out. This would be even more amazing if the actual supercapacitor was able to provide a long battery life compared to what exists today, which we have to charge it every night almost. Except for nokias, I can't remember the last time I charged mine Asha and I still got 75% battery left lol..

It's always the same thing with these kinds of articles. Remember the article about the young german who supposedly solved something that baffled physicists. Turned out to be something he didn't know (but everyone with a degree in physics or engineering does), solved in a different (inefficient) way after which it was completely blown out of proportion by the media. Which is sad in way, because it still was a great accomplishment for his age to come up with a solution, making it sound like a noble price accomplishment was unfair to him.

This is the same thing, the media not understanding anything about technology coming up with some great story about how an 18 year old revolutionised everything battery related. And of course you will get people who react with; she did nothing new, supercapacitors have been around for a long time. Again diverting all attention to that discussion, instead of being able to admire the fact that an 18 year old understands supercapacitance and was able to design one by her own.

end rant

I'd like to see how she controls the rate at which it discharges. It's my understanding that capacitors like to dump there charge all at once unlike a battery. It seems to me controlling the rate of energy release is an important hurdle in this tech.

!? They can dump much faster than a battery but they don't have to, the rate of discharges is controlled by the equivilent resistance of the circuit it powers.

It's not uncommon to use a supercap in place of a small battery in low voltage, low current applications. The problem is that supercaps have a really low energy density, which is the biggest barrier. If she figured out how to get past that, it would be huge.

"Teenager creates device" - all by themselves in their backyard, or with the help of some top professors?

When you write a dissertation, for example, you get guidance from professors and lecturers, but the work is your own, just as when doing coursework in high school. We can safely assume that she had input and guidance, but let's not seek to undermine her achievement.

I can read and write because my parents and teachers taught me. That doesn't mean that I have to share credit for everything that I've read and written since then with those that helped me on my way. We learn from those that know, we develop our skills further, we earn our own achievements.

I think it's safe to say that a $50,000 prize for achievement from one of the world's tech giants isn't given out to someone who isn't extraordinarily gifted in their own right, or who only managed to get through by having their hand held by their teachers.

Pygmy_Hippo said,
"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
-- Sir Isaac Newton, in letter to Robert Hooke, 5 February 1676
Great quote that's even better when you know that Newton was having a feud with Hooke at the time and that Hooke was particularly short :-)

68k said,
"Teenager creates device" - all by themselves in their backyard, or with the help of some top professors?

Anything you created recently?

BiGdUsTy said,
Not to take away from what she did but supercapacitor's have been around before this.

I agree but from what the article states, it seems she's came up with her own kind of supercapacitor, so I'm not sure if she has or hasn't. If she has then this reward is well deserved, and it's pretty amazing that she was able to make the capacitor, if on the other hand it's just an OTS supercapacitor and a charging then then well, it wasn't deserved.

Yep, indeed they have. I'm not sure if you read what I wrote the wrong way, or if I just phrased it poorly:

"...for a supercapacitor that she developed, which could enable handsets to be charged fully in under 30 seconds" // - so "she developed *a* supercapacitor capable of..." etc - not "she is responsible for developing the first supercapacitor".

A bit like saying "Nokia won an award for a camera that it developed, capable of incredible low-light performance" - refers specifically to developing *a* camera with particular capabilities, not developing *the* first camera ever.

If anyone else was confused by my wording, my apologies. Hope that clears things up a bit!

gcaw said,
Yep, indeed they have. I'm not sure if you read what I wrote the wrong way, or if I just phrased it poorly:

"...for a supercapacitor that she developed, which could enable handsets to be charged fully in under 30 seconds" // - so "she developed *a* supercapacitor capable of..." etc - not "she is responsible for developing the first supercapacitor".

A bit like saying "Nokia won an award for a camera that it developed, capable of incredible low-light performance" - refers specifically to developing *a* camera with particular capabilities, not developing *the* first camera ever.

If anyone else was confused by my wording, my apologies. Hope that clears things up a bit!

Don't worry, it's just that today, people don't take enough time to read properly or even read at all… *sigh* I'm not trying to be mean or anything, but it really true.