Odds are you’ve complained about your smartphone’s battery. They take hours to charge and are only good for about two to three years of use. And while your smartphone might be evolving at warp speed, its battery has only improved slightly.

Battery alternatives called supercapacitors, on the other hand, recharge in seconds and last much longer, but they don’t hold enough power to run laptops and smartphones for long periods of time.

Now, two scientists at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute have created hybrid supercapacitors with six times the capacity of commercial models on the market. They can be made more cheaply, too. The ultrathin power sources could be used not only in phones but in implantable biomedical devices or wearable electronics.

“We showed our hybrid supercapacitors can be combined with solar cells for storing huge amounts of energy during the day and then you can use them at night for operation of LEDs,” said Maher El-Kady, a postdoctoral researcher in UCLA’s department of chemistry and biochemistry who worked on the project.

Professor Richard Kaner, who led the study, licensed the new technology from UCLA and co-founded Nanotech Energy Inc. in August with El-Kady and physician entrepreneur Dr. Jack Kavanaugh. The company is looking at factory sites in the L.A. area and Canada and expects to be producing energy cells and generating revenue by the end of the year.

“How many times has your phone battery ran out of juice and you felt disconnected?” asked El-Kady. “Imagine if you could recharge your phone in seconds using our hybrid supercapacitors.”

– Marni Usheroff

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