At the recent Mobile World Congress Shanghai, I got the chance to look at a new battery solution that could challenge lithium ion technology for the energy storage throne.
Zap&Go’s fast-charging solution uses graphene-based supercapacitors, with the goal of replacing billions of lithium ion batteries that are currently powering everything from smartphones to laptops to power tools.
And the best part: It can charge up a typical dying phone in five minutes or less.
Beyond the idea of fast-charging, Zap&Go wants to solve other thorny issues with the ubiquitous lithium ion batteries. Memory effect usually kills lithium ion batteries after 500-1000 cycles, since the charge/discharge cycle is a chemical reaction. Think of your cell phone — if you just charge once day you’re already looking at poorer performance in year two.
Zap&Go is able to withstand 10,000-100,000 cycles, or up to 270 years if charged once a day. Somehow, I think your iPhone 6 will be obsolete by then.
Graphene an energy storage “holy grail?”
Graphene is not necessarily a new idea; it’s an energy technology that always “10 years away,” with the knowledge that nanotechnology advances will make it more cost-effective and scalable. Zap&Go claims to have solved that nanotech need with their own proprietary tech.
Safety is also a big issue that Zap&Go should solve. Even though your cellphone maybe say 0% is available, typically there’s still a charge left – up to 30% of capacity in some cases – since lithium ion batteries become chemically unstable when totally discharged. This leftover charge is also why airlines won’t allow significant numbers to fly in cargo holds, since the heat of the chemical reactions can potentially cause fires.
Zap & Go graphene system can be completely discharged for safe travel. As well, the metal case required in some uses of lithium ion batteries to render them safe can be eliminated, also making for a lighter battery, although the size of the cores of both battery types remains similar today.
Currently the firm is working on a next generation of the product, which will bring down the price and flexibility of this storage solution. In the long run, smaller devices and next generations of technology will have storage problems to solve; let’s see of Zap&Go can do it.