Electronics

Zap&Go portable charger fuels up in just 5 minutes

Zap&Go portable charger fuels ...
A supercapacitor-based charger currently under development can load up in only five minutes
A supercapacitor-based charger currently under development can load up in only five minutes
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A supercapacitor-based charger currently under development can load up in only five minutes
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A supercapacitor-based charger currently under development can load up in only five minutes
The device comes with a US plug as standard
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The device comes with a US plug as standard
The device is 40 to 50 mm (1.6 to 2 in) in diameter and doesn't require extra adapters
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The device is 40 to 50 mm (1.6 to 2 in) in diameter and doesn't require extra adapters
Plugs for the UK, EU and Japan are also included in the $99 pledge
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Plugs for the UK, EU and Japan are also included in the $99 pledge

An Oxford-based startup has turned to crowdfunding to help develop Zap&Go;, a phone charger with an emphasis on speed and portability. Thanks to a graphene supercapacitor and an ad-hoc power supply, the device will reportedly charge to its 1,500-mAh capacity – enough to fully charge an iPhone 5s – in only five minutes and promises to be a much more practical solution than current alternatives, particularly when traveling.

Our smartphones and tablets keep getting thinner, while displays keep getting more pixel-dense and power-hungry. As a consequence, the battery life of our portable devices rarely exceeds one day of heavy usage. In addition, the limitations of lithium-ion batteries mean that these devices can take hours to fully charge. For those who need more juice on the go, one solution is to use an external battery that can recharge our electronics when needed, even when we're miles away from a plug.

Plenty of fast external batteries are already either on the market or on the horizon. Perhaps two of the most interesting projects currently in the works are the 2,600-mAh Petalite Flux and the Power Practical Pronto, which according to its inventors will also come in a 13,500-mAh version.

But for all their capacity and convenience, these external batteries require bulky adapters that add to the clutter, making them unpractical to pack in your suitcase while you're traveling; and while they charge significantly faster than your typical smartphone, they still take 30 to 60 minutes to fully load up.

The device is 40 to 50 mm (1.6 to 2 in) in diameter and doesn't require extra adapters
The device is 40 to 50 mm (1.6 to 2 in) in diameter and doesn't require extra adapters

By contrast, Zap&Go; is designed specifically for speed and portability, as it can charge in just five minutes and doesn't require extra adapters, since the specially-developed power supply is embedded in the device itself. According to the product's Indiegogo campaign page, the device can charge any type of phone or tablet that comes with a standard 5-volt USB port.

You can use the Zap&Go; as a normal charger, plugging it into an electrical socket while your phone or tablet is charging normally and the device is completing its fast five-minute charge cycle; or, if you're pressed for time, you can just plug in the device for a quick and full charge-up, and only later, while you're on the go, connect the Zap&Go; to your device and have it charge (either way, the phone or tablet itself will still charge at normal speed).

The product, currently at a working prototype stage according to company founder Stephen Voller, required two major innovations: the first was to replace aluminum foils in supercapacitors with the much more conductive graphene, allowing the device to significantly shrink in size; the second was a new power supply to allow the charger to take in enough power in a limited amount of time.

According to the product's Indiegogo campaign, the Zap&Go; is set to be delivered in October 2015 for a pledge of US$99 and will ship with a US plug as standard, but will also include international plug adapters for the UK, Japan and the EU. At the time of writing, the Indiegogo campaign is one third of the way toward reaching its funding goal of $30,000, with 30 days still to go.

The video below shows the Zap&Go; in action.

Sources: Indiegogo, Zap&Go;

Zap + Go 5 minutes charger HD

6 comments
Billy600
Absolutely amazing work. The product looks good, but the really exciting thing is that as far as I know this the first (hopefully) commercially available graphene-supercapacitor based charging system on the market, that I know of anyway. Nice article Dario, but if you ran graphene in the headline I'm sure you'd have a lot more people taking interest.
Mzungu_Mkubwa
Keep in mind that I'm an electrical ignoramus (I know next to nothing about how electrical circuits work...) But I would think that the third innovative aspect would be how best to regulate the voltage of the charge as it comes back out of the supercap. (Maybe I'm wrong, but I thot I understood that the amount of voltage is directly proportional to the amount of charge contained in the capacitor - very high at first, and tapering off as the electricity drains out of it.) Someone with some knowledge on this correct or clarify? However, I agree with Billy600 that this is freaking awesome! Its about time we heard about an actual consumer product utilizing the swanky-groovy new graphene's capabilities. This is exactly what should be leveraged on a larger scale for transportation devices! (I know I've heard about supercaps in buses - not graphene-based, but there nonetheless.) It would not only be a great boon for vehicle charge times, but I would think would have great benefits to regen braking as well. Keep it coming, entrepreneurs!
Don Duncan
I have wondered why BEVs don't come with graphene-supercaps to be used for quick acceleration, helping extend batt life.
Eletruk
@ Don Duncan: There are a couple of drag racers that use supercaps rather than batteries, but they are only good for 1 run. Right now, the cost of having both supercaps and batteries is prohibitive. The Axion Power lead acid battery have a design that is similar where it had capacitors and battery in a single package, but is very slow in coming to market, they are actually demonstrating it in a vehicle now.
Keith in Portland
This is a really good idea to help promote interest in using capacitors instead of batteries in so many situations. Batteries rely on chemical reactions which slowly lose effectiveness, but capacitors should keep on going as long as their dielectric material stays intact. The charging is so simple, just connect to a voltage source and let those electrons charge the two plates. No chemistry needed. The comment about the voltage falloff is probably mistaken. That is true for current, but the voltage won't change so fast, like if it was full of compressed air, the voltage is the pressure, and the current is the volume of the container. In the case of connecting something for use, only the current the device has a path for can come out during discharge, and the voltage should be slow to drop. The size of the charged area is the key to constant current supply, and graphene provides a much larger surface area than just a flat sheet like a typical capacitor. This is an exciting campaign to follow. Maybe it will start the revolution in replacing batteries that we have been waiting for.
Zackattack
How can I buy it