Amrita Smart: A Smart solar charger for your smartphone

When it comes to technology, mobility is the apple (pun unintended) of everyone’s eyes today, from hardware manufacturers to software companies to marketeers to app-churners. However, there is one thing that restricts your mobility to some extent–the need to recharge your batteries, during which time, you cannot be mobile.

Welcome “Amrita Smart”, world’s first integrated solar storage tile using a supercapacitor, that can charge itself under the sun, and then can store the juice for up to seven days, which could then be used to charge your phones, tablets, or even laptops.

Kochi based Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine first introduced Amrita Smart at Nanosolar 2012, an international workshop organized on solar energy and nanotechnology.

The device combines a supercapacitor (similar to a battery but with a much longer lifespan) with photovoltaic solar panels to create a mobile power unit. It is the first of its kind, but really useful, and sensible to store excess energy with the source, rather than attaching an external battery to a solar panel, as conventional solar-energy collectors work. This would also make future devices thinner, flexible, and with improved storage capacity.

The Solar Pad weighs only 200 gm, so you can pack it with your tablet/laptop, and can be truly mobile. The only limitation would be to charge it during the day, but that’s okay, since four hours of sunbathe would take the Solar Pad through a week of recharging capability.

The product has been designed by a team of 40 researchers led by Dr. Shanti Nair, director of the Amrita Center for Nanoscience, and Dr. Vinod Gopal. The team is still looking for a way by which they can increase this capacity to 30 days. Highlighting the fact that energy generation and storage must go hand-in-hand, Dr. Shantikumar Nair had  explained,

“We make use of a supercapacitor and the storage device is integrated with the solar cell. The product can meet the energy requirement of a home and can store energy for up to seven days. It can be most useful in case there are cloudy or rainy days.”

This is definitely a good news. The only sad part–it may take a year or two to see this in production. No exact dates were mentioned by the Amrita Centre for Nanosciences.

Not only handheld smart devices, these smart chargers can come in handy for other usecases, for example, defence personnel as solar tiles don’t need batteries, which are heavy and occupy space, or maybe as backup ‘inverters’ in areas with frequent power outages to run small appliances.

As with all things electronic, solar tiles are getting smaller by the day. If the Amrita Smart gains enough commercial success, the next hope could be further reduction in size of solar panels, so that they could be attached to the back of your smartphone or tablet, thereby providing free, renewable, 100% eco-friendly energy.

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