Improving Phone Battery Charge

Imagine a phone that can last for days on just a single charge. An invention of a new material may turn this into a reality. Deepak Singh an Assistant Professor of physics at the University of Missouri Columbia and inventor of this technology, joins Hari Sreenivasan via Google Hangout to discuss.

TRANSCRIPT

Imagine a phone that can last for days on just a single charge.

The invention of a new material may turn this into a reality.

Deepak Singh, an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Missouri Columbia and inventor of this technology, joins us via Google Hangout to discuss.

Thanks for being with us.

So, first of all, how is it possible?

It's the discovery of a new material, honeycomb-lattice magnetic material.

But we have to understand that it's a bit of a procedure.

It's only the beginning.

So, what we have found is a magnetic diode behavior.

So, this material has the tendency to exhibit a very low threshold... and that gives you dissipative energy of nanowire per square centimeter, which is at least three orders of magnitude smaller compared to a semiconductor diode or gemstone diode.

Okay.

So, let me break this down for our audience that might not have advanced degrees.

So, first, your honeycomb lattice -- that's a change in the process of how we're building a battery?

Is that right?

No, we are not building the battery.

So, your cellphone or computer or any electronic device has a circuit, and it draws energy from the battery, and it dissipates that energy.

Sure.

That's how you run out of battery.

So, batteries are still what it is, but what we are going to do is to make the electric circuit very efficient using this new material.

Instead of having metal semiconductor, we are going to make it out of this magnetic honeycomb lattice.

And that will consume much, much less energy compared to what we have right now, and that will lead to the prolonged battery life.

That's the idea.

So, what is the material that the honeycomb lattice is made from?

The magnetic honeycomb lattice is made of permalloy magnet.

The magnet is permalloy, a combination of nickel, iron, and a little bit of molecule.

It's a well-known magnet, very soft magnet.

And is that expensive to make?

Oh, no, no, no.

The procedure itself -- I mean, it's a nanostructure material.

It's not like a silicon, which can be mass produced very easily.

So there is a procedure.

So, in the beginning, yes, it will cost more than silicon, but you in the long term, if you mass produce, the cost will be much smaller.

Still higher than silicon, but then the benefits are immense.

So, if you pay $10 for something, and then you pay $20 for something, it's not...

Sure.

So, you said that there are other parts of this that have to come along, that this is really just the first step, right?

So, as you're working on this process, are others working on the processes that are adjacent to where this electricity or where this energy is consumed?

Mm-hmm.

So, my research is funded by DoE, and that's the reason that it happened.

And the funding has very specific goals, and that's science-based.

So I cannot divert the attention from studying the -- So, our goal is to study the underlying physics behind the magnetic honeycomb lattice, but by accident, we discovered this phenomena.

So that will go on.

And we cannot change that route.

But what we have done is to create a spin-off company, and that's where we are trying to make transistor and our crystal amplifier, and then we'll put them together.

So it will take a few years, and we are kind of working so that it's separate than research.

But, again, it's research, but not pure science.

Again, science is involved, but it's more sort of technology-oriented.

In addition to the honeycomb lattice, you still have to work on -- The start-up is gonna work on the adjacent parts, and how the whole thing comes together to consume less energy, right?

Exactly.

And your research through the University, and funded by the --

Department of Energy.

...Department of Energy, DoE, is to look at this specific.

So, what are you able to help the Department of Energy with once you finish your research on this?

So, the basic model of the Department of Energy is energy-efficient materials.

So, in that sense, this is precisely what we are doing.

It serves their model.

The Department of Energy supports a lot of basic research, which, eventually, many of them have helped us in designing new materials that help us every day.

Research is primarily aimed to understand the underlying physics of that material, which is why this magnetic material are [speaking indistinctly] and what kind of properties they have.

Yeah.

That's a separate focus.

Do you see this magnetic honeycomb lattice being used in other types of devices?

I mean, I know we started talking about cellphones, but the technology itself and what you're learning now, can that be applied more broadly?

Yes. That's an excellent question, thank you, Hari.

So, the diode can be immediately used as a small energy-harvesting device.

This is an emerging market, and a small energy-harvesting device has a very big future.

Imagine that you have a small thing, a palm-sized, very small harvesting device in your watch, cellphone.

And cellphone not to consume the battery, but cellphone has other functionality, right?

A camera and other things.

So, a small energy-harvesting device is the big area where we can apply this diode technology to act that way.

And it's quite suitable, because they need very low-threshold for this diode to charge the capacitor or battery, because they don't generate a lot of energy.

Once the diode, the transistor, and amplifier can all get on the same page in energy consumption, you're talking about all of our electronics having an incredibly long scale in the amount of how the energy is used -- or how much it's conserved, I should say.

That is correct, yes.

That's the right statement.

Yeah.

Yeah.

And so that's, what, three years, five years out?

Yeah, it will take time.

I would say five years.

Five years, we're going to estimate, but something on that time scale.

It will take a little time.

Any technology takes time.

So this is no exception.

And how far along are you on the start-up side of things to try to build this out versus the research that you're doing on the DoE side?

So, my research is going well.

On the start-up side, we have talked to some investors, and they seem interested, and there's a big company who is interested.

But we are looking for investors, also.

So if someone is interested, then we can communicate with them, and explain to them what we plan to do.

But it's, I would say, at early stage, very early.

All right.

Deepak Singh, Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Missouri Columbia.

Thanks so much for joining us.