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Charger heal thyself

For over a decade now scientists have been unable to find a battery chemistry of superior cost and efficiency to lithium-ion/lithium-polymer batteries.  As a result, a business that had seen a series of quantum leaps in prior decades has been reduced to slow improvements in battery density and efficiency.  Progress has been made, but remains sluggish, as it depends on subtle tweaks to the finer chemical details and the electrodes.
The electronics industry has survived this stall, in part given the ever shrink power requirements of mobile electronics.  But today the primary power draws in a mobile device are stalled for different reasons.  Circuitry is running into leakage performance barriers that are increasingly offsetting die shrinks.  Displays, meanwhile are suffering from cost issues that prevent the industry from rapidly deploying lower power alternatives to liquid crystal, such as OLED.
I. Charge Anywhere
As a result the pressure is on to think outside the box and provide novel new solutions outside the mere power efficiency and battery refinement frame of reference.  One such solution is alarmingly simple -- just charge your device more frequently.
Charging your device more often allows for smaller, thinner devices that run cooler and have less flammability risk.  But current chargers make smaller batteries a headache -- instead the trend in mobile devices is to pack bigger and bigger batteries onboard.  The root reason for this trend is that charging is, simply put, a pain.
Thus a couple companies have committed to coming up with smarter charging solutions in order to both curb the mega-mobile battery trend and to compensate for power shortcomings on the hardware and battery front.
One solution that's rapidly approaching is magnetic resonance charging.  Relying on electromagnetic phenomena first explored by Nikola Tesla in the late 19th and early 20th century, this new charging tech is more flexible than current wireless chargers, which rely on induction.
Unlike the inductive chargers, which require you to lay your device directly on a charging pad, resonant chargers can charge your device from inches away.  That makes them suitable candidates to be incorporated into furniture (e.g. tabletops, shelves) and other locations (e.g. a car headrest or seat), raising the potential of an eventual ubiquitous wireless power transfer solution for mobile devices -- something Nikola Tesla dreamed of a century ago.

Rezence Power

Leading the charge to commercialize magnetic resonance charging is the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), which just released a new industry standard, the Rezence Baseline System Specification Version 1.2 (BSS V1.2) in July.  The group recently surpassed 100 members for the first time.  It is led by some of the world's largest chipmakers -- Intel Corp. (INTC), Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935).  Of the major mobile chipmakers, NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) is the only major player not involved in the project.
The technology is not as simple as you might think.  Resonance chargers need to tune their fields to nearby devices in order maximize efficiency.  Using a combination of largely Qualcomm and Intel patents, the new Rezence spec offers a complex set of fixes to allow a single charger to target multiple devices at high efficiency.  The new spec draws 22 watts on the transmitter side and supports charging at 3.5 and 6.5 watts on the receiving side -- enough for virtually any smartphone.
Upcoming chips from Samsung, Intel, and Qualcomm will contain circuitry that will communicate with the charger, allowing support for a higher number of devices and/or faster charging.  The coalition is also working on two upcoming specifications -- BSS V1.3, a higher power spec. for tablets/laptops/etc., and BSS V1.4 a spec for low power wearable devices.
In a recent interview with CNBCMark Hunsicker, senior director of wireless power solutions at Qualcomm explained:

We want to eliminate battery anxiety.  You should no longer have to worry about turning Wi-Fi off or Bluetooth off.

In the future the technology may allow three friends to sit down at a working lunch at lay their laptops and smartphones on table, and all six devices will be simultaneously charged, so that by the time they leave they will have enough power for their commute to the next meeting.
It took a couple of years for wireless inductive charging to pick up steam after the specs and hardware became available.  Hence you may not see these kinds of "drop-and-go" charges in the next year, outside of a handful of devices.  But in the next 2-3 years expect them to become relatively common.  Ubiquity will take a bit longer.
II. Charge Faster
The other option when it comes to eliminating power concerns via charging is to cut the charging time.  From a simplistic view you can charge faster, simply by upping the charging power.  But in the real world you are limited not only by the power constraints of your charging spec., but also by device longevity concerns.  Charge too quickly, too often and your battery would traditionally deteriorate and die much sooner.
A number of companies including Intel and Qualcomm have also fielded proprietary "fast charging" solutions, which resort to various tricks to get around these concerns.  One solution is to simply only use fast charging when a very low battery charge is detected.
Even more promising and intriguing is new technology from Qnovo, Inc. Founded in 2009 in Newark, Calif. Qnovo, like early wireless power startups, was among the first to see the writing on the wall in terms of slowing power efficiency progress.  Now its fast-charging technology is reaching maturity at just the right time.
Qnovo charges faster

Qnovo describes its technology, writing:

Qnovo’s electrochemists realized that most of the damage to batteries occurs during charging. By applying a more intelligent charging process, this damage could be minimized. Rather than charging with a simple current, Qnovo injects a series of charge “packets”, followed by measurements to determine the battery’s state-of-health. Modifications are then applied to simultaneously minimize charge time and cell damage.

This process is repeated hundreds of times each second throughout the life of the battery. Your battery has good days and bad days, just like you do. With intelligent charging, Qnovo recognizes not only when your battery can be charged faster, but also when it should be charged a little more slowly to ensure it will last. You will probably not notice the difference, but your battery sure will!

The adaptive nature of Qnovo’s patented closed-loop algorithms uniquely optimize the performance and lifetime of each individual battery. It turns out that no two batteries are born alike, nor perform alike. Even two cells made on the same day can perform substantially differently. With Qnovo’s adaptive feedback, battery performance is more consistent, meaning all users enjoy a better battery experience. Qnovo products are patent protected...

The promising startup is looking to license its technology to smartphone makers.  Why should they be interested (and why should we be)?

This infographic and graph pretty much says it all:
Qnovo charging
Qnovo graph

In other words, Qnovo's tech (claims) to be able to allow your battery to charge three times as fast without risking damage.  The technology comes in two forms.  The first is a hardware solution which it calls the QN200.  The second is a wholly software solution which estimates battery life/health based on the cruder "fuel gauge" estimates Qualcomm Snapdragon chips give.  The software version uses a history of battery life info to try to analyze and diagnose whether the battery is healthy enough for faster charging.  This solution is called QNS.  

QN200 is the better solution, but QNS is more flexible allowing much of the gains of QNS' tech with limited hardware dependences.  QNS may not work on all chips, but given the ubiquity of Snapdragon mobile SoCs, it's about the closest thing as you'll get for now to a universal solution.  Unfortunately right now Qnovo does appear to have plans to directly distributed to consumers (à la Cyanogenmod) so you'll have to likely rely on carriers and/or OEMs to license the tech and give you access.  It's possible Qualcomm/Google Inc. (GOOG) or CyanogenMod may directly license this technology, though and incorporate it directly into the base Android firmware for Snapdragon SoCs or in a replacement firmware.
It's offering licensing to battery makers, charger makers, smartphone makers.  So, whether it's charging faster or charging anywhere, you may be able to soon get by with a smaller battery, thanks to these innovators.

Sources: Rezence [1], [2], Qnovo, CNBC

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Charge more often?
By bug77 on 8/15/2014 4:37:52 AM , Rating: 2
Last I checked, batteries still had a limited amount of charge/discharge cycles.
It wouldn't be that big a deal if the batteries were replaceable, but then we'd be back to talking about how much batteries pollute.

RE: Charge more often?
By Solandri on 8/15/2014 11:41:27 AM , Rating: 2
The cycle limit on batteries isn't a fixed number. Full charges/discharges are much more damaging than partial charges. Every electric vehicle battery and most newer laptop batteries have programmed charge limits of 10%-90% or 20%-80% to prevent you from fully charging/discharging it. Doing a 0%-100% charge is what caused older laptop batteries to last only 5 minutes after a couple years of use.

RE: Charge more often?
By bug77 on 8/16/2014 10:16:22 AM , Rating: 1
I can't find anything to back that up on Wikipedia ( Do you have other sources you can share?

RE: Charge more often?
By Solandri on 8/16/2014 11:46:01 AM , Rating: 2

If you dig into the specs on the various EVs, you'll see a difference between the battery capacity and useful capacity. e.g. The GM Volt only uses 10.8 kWh of its battery's 16.5 kWh capacity (this is up from 8.5 kWh in the first gen Volt).

The laptops are a little harder to figure out because different manufacturers have come up with different systems. Some allow you to limit the max charge on the battery (Sony to 80% or 90%, Lenovo to whatever you want to set it at). Most of the others do it behind the scenes. If you pop up the battery properties in Windows, the "full capacity" of a new laptop is about 90% of the capacity written on the battery pack itself.

RE: Charge more often?
By bug77 on 8/16/2014 12:34:22 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately these guys don't do a very good job at backing up their claims.
They say at 100% DoD a battery maintains 70% capacity for 300-500 cycles. At 10% DoD, is lasts for 3,750 – 4,700 cycles.
But, since ten 10% cycles equal one 100% cycle so you'd be charging 10 times more often, at 10% DoD you still get the equivalent of 375-470 cycles. Which is exactly in the ballpark of charging at 100% DoD, thus suggesting DoD has no influence whatsoever.

It's possible I'm still missing something or these guys didn't explain their findings too well (or both), but that's what I understood so far.

RE: Charge more often?
By SublimeSimplicity on 8/17/2014 11:04:43 AM , Rating: 2
When they do testing like this, they normalize based on the DoD. So if it's a 10% DoD, they'll to 10 charge/discharge cycles to call it a full cycle.

RE: Charge more often?
By bug77 on 8/17/2014 4:00:18 PM , Rating: 2
I thought that may be an explanation, but they're not actually claiming that. Not good enough for me.
I know, I should do my homework and read more about LiIon, but I never have enough time to do it.

RE: Charge more often?
By LOL Here We Go Again on 8/22/2014 10:21:56 AM , Rating: 2
The products that this article was written about slows or prevents the problems inside of the battery that creates the charge/discharge cycle limits we are all familiar with.

Once you are pushing and pulling electrons in and out of a battery in a way that is not harming the batteries internals, then within reason (physics), you can do a lot more with that same battery.

The problem ...
By danjw1 on 8/15/2014 9:41:16 AM , Rating: 1
The problem is that no device maker has a good reason to want to extend the life of their devices. That is why we live in a world of planned obsolescence. The sooner a device fails, the sooner the customer buys a new one.

RE: The problem ...
By Rukkian on 8/15/2014 11:49:10 AM , Rating: 2
While there is a limit, with Li-Ion batteries, it is actually better to do a bunch of smaller, quicker charges than one big one. If you can keep your battery between 20 and 80%, the life goes much longer on average.

RE: The problem ...
By Rukkian on 8/15/2014 12:02:54 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, somehow the reply got on the wrong post.

RE: The problem ...
By LOL Here We Go Again on 8/22/2014 10:26:21 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, if a battery can hold 3 times the charge with this technology, then the device manufacturer could put a smaller battery into the device, and save money.

And most companies out there like to save money.

By btc909 on 8/16/2014 12:43:57 AM , Rating: 2
Just give me an F'ing charging pad. I know the reason this hasn't become popular since it prevents manufactures from making phones from being ultra thin due to the wireless charging coil.

RE: Whatever
By flyingpants1 on 8/17/2014 1:58:43 AM , Rating: 2
Solution: put the charging coil in the case. Solves two problems at once: gives all phones wireless charging without adding bulk, and makes your encased phone work with a wireless charger.

Mostly software?
By shabby on 8/14/2014 8:22:57 PM , Rating: 2
Gimme gimme gimme!

Efficiency be darned?
By Thalyn on 8/14/2014 10:49:34 PM , Rating: 2
Did I read that correctly? 22 watts in leads to a maximum of 6.5 watts out? Or is that simply a per-device measurement, with the unit able to charge 3 units simultaneously? 19.5w out of 22w isn't anywhere near as bad.

By SublimeSimplicity on 8/15/2014 10:46:57 AM , Rating: 2
Is leaving them fully charged, especially in the heat. This is something that Tesla has learned. Even though Tesla's use a battery chemistry that should have much worse cycle life than a LEAF, they are not showing nearly the wear and tear they should.
The theory is that LEAF drivers charge their cars to full capacity every time they get a chance and they sit there (overnight, all day) waiting to be used. While Tesla drivers sometimes don't charge their cars for days at a time.

When you charge a battery, ions move from the cathode to the anode. When fully charged, the anode material swells to hold the ions. Leaving it in this state can cause fractures to the material, introduce extreme heat (or cold) and it gets worse.

My advice, if you want to make your cellphone battery to last. Leave it off the charger at night and plug it in in the morning while you're getting ready.

Qnovo usage scenario
By The Von Matrices on 8/14/14, Rating: -1
RE: Qnovo usage scenario
By Bobhacks on 8/15/2014 12:10:11 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree, if the technology works as good as they claim then they will make a huge amount of money.

I agree charge speed may not matter to some people, and the guy in the video says it also fast charge is pointless without good charge life. According to that graph, there is a big difference.

Imagine for people that don't use there phone much only having to charge it every 2 days.

I think battery life and charging are two downsides of cell phones.

RE: Qnovo usage scenario
By Murloc on 8/15/2014 7:31:28 AM , Rating: 1
meh I see people charging their smartphones during classes all the time, because it doesn't last enough or they forgot.

RE: Qnovo usage scenario
By bug77 on 8/15/2014 9:30:19 AM , Rating: 1
I think it's about not needing to remember to charge your device every now and then, because when they ran out of juice, you can get them back in working state in a few minutes (as opposed to the usual hour(s) of charging these days). And because of that, devices won't be pressured to pack the largest battery they can either. Wishful thinking, if you ask me, but that's the reasoning as far as I understand.

RE: Qnovo usage scenario
By Jeffk464 on 8/15/2014 10:45:48 AM , Rating: 2
I personally would still value a battery that would typically give me a full days use. I do see some benefit to a quick charge in a pinch though. For me this would be more useful than wireless charging.

RE: Qnovo usage scenario
By bug77 on 8/15/2014 12:06:50 PM , Rating: 2
Tell me about it. I still miss the dumb phones that I needed to charge once a week.

By LOL Here We Go Again on 8/22/2014 10:30:27 AM , Rating: 2
Hey! I still use one of those dumb phones. And I can go almost 12 days on a single charge since I use my phone very sparingly.

RE: Qnovo usage scenario
By flyingpants1 on 8/17/2014 1:22:05 AM , Rating: 2
This is the right train of thought, except there is no such thing as "a full day's use", since everyone's usage varies.

More useful would be a slightly more concrete metric, something like "8 hours of medium web browsing", so you could actually use it to get through a workday without turning it off, like a Macbook Air (11 hours in Anandtech's "light workload". Combined with 15 minute charging, that might be our best case scenario for the near future.

Jason must own stock in this
By coburn_c on 8/15/14, Rating: -1
"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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