Why your mobile phone will never run out of battery again

Mobile phones and gadgets running out of battery life halfway through the day is one of the smartphone age’s biggest frustrations, but soon we will be able to charge our devices using natural light.

Watching movies, playing games and frantically refreshing emails have made our gadgets battery-intensive, leading to many people carrying spare charging cables and extra batteries.

Now two companies have created an ultra-thin transparent layer that can be embedded into electronic displays to power-up the phone and make charging routines a thing of the past.

The technology will effectively turn any surface on a mobile device into a solar panel – which will allow charging in natural or artificial light.

Three unnamed, but leading, device manufacturers are said to be working with the technology and are set to sign licences to use it at some point during in the first half of this year.

3M, who were formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, and French solar technology company SunPartner Technologies teamed up to create Wysips Crystal – an acronym which they say stands for ‘What you see is photovoltaic surface’.

The crystal surface is bonded to devices using 3M’s adhesives that are precision manufactured to eliminate common problems such as bubbling, which can distort the display, and are designed to work with existing materials and screen technologies.

The continuous charge is hoped to make devices always ready-to-use whether indoors or outdoors and eliminate the need to charge devices from a physical power source. This will not only help to preserve natural resources but also make the excuse of not answering phone calls due to a drained mobile phone battery non-existent.

Vice president and general manager of 3M’s Electronics Markets Materials Division, Herve Gindre, said: “It is exciting to see both an innovative and sustainable solution for this industry.

“We are thrilled to leverage our technical materials expertise, along with SunPartner’s unique solutions, to enable key customers worldwide to bring new and exciting possibilities to the next generation of electronic devices. This team effort aligns well with 3M’s commitment to collaborative innovation, sustainability, and improving business and people’s lives.”

While it has been around and tested for some years, experts have predicted that 2014 will see wireless charging really cut the cord and become used in the mainstream markets. Qi wireless charging is currently included with more than 60 different phones and at least 40m of them have been sold so far.

Where 3M and SunPartner Technologies’ product will be ahead of pre-existing wireless charging methods is that it will not need to be placed on a pad, or specific area to provide power, making wireless charging not dependent on a traditional power source.

Ludovic Deblois, president and co-founder, SunPartner Technologie said: “We see strong synergies to serve our customers in consumer electronics markets with the help of 3M as a trusted partner and expert in materials excellence.”

Why sandless sandbags could hold the key to flood protection

The sight of people hauling sandbags along streets and brushing water out of their houses has become a familiar scene in the United Kingdom, as floods have gripped large parts of the country.

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised those with homes underwater that money “is no object” but also warned they will be in it “for the long haul”.  A senior scientist from the Met Office, the leading weather service in the UK, linked the floods in the country and extreme weather in Europe and North America to climate change.

Those who have had their property damaged by the high waters have complained about the lack of aid provided, provoking national newspaper the Sun to launch a campaign to provide sandbags to those who are in need.

While effective at keeping flood water out, sandbags come with a range of problems, including rotting, weight and storage challenges.

With increasing concern over the impact of climate change and the large number of sandbags being used at the moment, modern technology is attempting to change the way we help to prevent floods. This includes upgrading the sandbag to be more environmentally and user-friendly.

One of the biggest disadvantages of the sandbag is its weight, which makes it difficult to move around quickly when a flash flood hits. At just 200g before activated, modern versions such as FloodSax provide a more flexible alternative. A semi-porous inner line within the bags contains gelling polymer which absorbs water to become taut in three minutes. Once the water is inside them it stays there and diverts the flood waters.

These type of modern sandbags come with a host of advantages over the traditional hessian and polypropylene bags, which may prove useful in future emergencies. They are the same size as an unfilled sandbag, making them easy to store and even vacuum packable.

They are also easy to dispose and do not rot like traditional sandbags. The polymer within modern bags can also be mixed in small quantities with soil to assist with moisture retention in summer months

If you’re not a fan of sandbags and are looking for protection from flood waters without buying a boat (or building an ark), design and architecture company Morphopedia have produced a house that floats. When surrounded by water, their prototype house does not float off but instead rises on the water while remaining tethered to vertical guides.

Image courtesy of Jeff Jones.