Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nanodot bio-organic nanochrystals will charge you phone in 30 seconds flat… in 2016

An Israeli technology company is working on a technology that could transform the semiconductor and energy-storage business. If you transform those industries, you transform modern life.

Store Dot, based in Ramat Gan, just to the west of Tel Aviv, is creating biological semiconductors that can, among other things, store a charge, emit visible light and be used to produce high-capacity, or quick-charging, batteries.

“If everything works, and we have a lot of evidence that it will do, we have a revolution in many devices—memory, batteries, the display, image sensors,” said Doron Myersdorf, chief executive of Store Dot.

The semiconductors are known as quantum dots and are made from naturally occurring organic compounds called peptides, short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. According to Gil Rosenman, chief scientist of Store Dot and holder of the Henry and Dinah Krongold Chair of Microelectronics at Tel Aviv University, when the company manipulates their chemistry, these peptides can be made to self-assemble into quantum dots—molecular-size materials that have remarkable properties.

“We take these peptides, manipulate them and manage the self-assembly process that usually takes place in nature,” said Mr. Myersdorf. “Only two molecules of peptide attach to each other, and they create a very little structure, two nanometers in size. It has very interesting properties—some are optical, some are related to charge, and others piezoelectric,” meaning they generate charge under mechanical strain.

To get some idea of the scale, the diameter of a human immunodeficiency virus is about 60 times as large.

According to Mr. Myersdorf, these peptide-based quantum dots are crystalline in nature. “That is important,” he said. “It means they are stable. They can also hold a charge. That means we can actually create a memory.”

Quantum dots are not new, but typically they have been made using inorganic materials such as cadmium selenide. a known carcinogen. Further, he said, because it is a physical manufacturing process, there tend to be large discrepancies in the size of dots produced. Using a natural, organic process creates dots that are cheaper and less environmentally damaging to produce, and the results have high levels of purity and are identical in size. “We let nature take its course.”

Inorganic quantum dots already are being used for displays, and previously it was thought that organic dots would only radiate in ultraviolet frequencies. However, by manipulating the chemistry of the dots, Mr. Rosenman has been able to get them to generate colored light. “No one knows these peptides can be caused to vibrate in the visible spectrum,” he said.

Although the technology has a wide range of applications, and Store Dot has protected intellectual property in many areas, it is, for now at least, concentrating on just two: displays and batteries.

In a demonstration, Mr. Rosenman shone a blue light (the backlight in an LCD TV is blue) onto tubes containing different solutions of quantum dots. The tubes lit up in red, green and blue—the constituents of any display. “There is a cost saving of about 10 times compared to other displays,” said Mr. Myersdorf. “The manufacturing process is the same as for making OLEDs.” An OLED is an organic light-emitting diode, commonly found in some smartphones and TVs.

But it isn’t just far-cheaper displays that Store Dot is working on. Mr. Rosenman demonstrated a power cell. By replacing the electrolyte with a solution containing the quantum dots, the same cell had a five-fold increase in charge.

Not only can much more powerful batteries be made (or batteries generating the same power at a greatly reduced size), but quantum-dot-enhanced power cells should not show the same degradation as conventional batteries.

“Because the quantum dots are crystalline, they stay for thousands of charge cycles,” Mr. Rosenman said.

The company is working on a cell for powering a cellphone that would take just seven minutes to charge for daily use.

At the moment the technology is still in the laboratory, but Store Dot is moving to trials and is in talks with cellphone maker Samsung Electronics Co. and others about commercializing the technology.