Does Your Smartphone Already Have an Amprius Battery?
By December 2013, 1.4 billion smartphones were in use globally or about one smartphone for every five people in the world. Smartphone sales grew by an astonishing 44% in 2012 and yet still, grew 44% more in 2013. According to our reader usage statistics here at Nanalyze, there’s a 15% chance you’re reading this article on a smartphone right now. One thing all smartphone owners are very aware of is their battery life. Smartphones use lithium-ion batteries which are one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries for portable electronics. A company that could extend the life of a lithium-ion battery would have an incredibly large market to target. One company looking to do just that is Amprius.
Founded in 2008, Silicon Valley based Amprius is a startup out of Stanford University. The company has secured their domain name www.amprius.com, but doesn’t have much of a web presence; just a splash page and two press releases from January 2014. The first press release announced the receipt of $30 million in Series C funding from the likes of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Stanford University, VantagePoint Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and SAIF Partners. This brings total funding to around $55 million for Amprius. The second press release announced the appointment of Dr. Steven Chu to the Board of Directors. Dr. Chu is a notable American physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2007 and served as the 12th United States Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013.
Amprius Battery Technology
Amprius has crafted a highly efficient anode out of silicon nanowires for lithium-ion batteries. Simply put, Amprius can create lithium-ion batteries that have a 20% to 40% improvement in battery life over existing high-end batteries. According to a Time article in May 2013, the first generation battery from Amprius will be 580 Watt-hours per liter (Wh/L), compared to about 530 Wh/L for existing high-end batteries (9.4% improvement). A second-generation battery is expected in 2014 with 670 Wh/L performance (17% improvement). The third-generation model could go into volume production in 2015, and would provide upwards of 700 Wh/L (32% improvement). A January 6, 2014 article by GreentechMedia reported that Amprius has built 60,000 batteries so far for testing with customers that include Nokia, as well as a number of U.S. and China-based original equipment manufacturers. Amprius’ China based manufacturing facility has been in volume production for the past five months or so. The same article by GreentechMedia goes on to provide a much more optimistic battery release timeline than the one provided by Time.
So is Amprius’ technology being used in your smartphone right now?
An article on ExtremeTech speculates that you may never know:
The thing is, it’s not really in anyone’s interest to produce a smartphone that has 50% more battery life than its predecessor. It’s much better (profit-wise) to increment it slowly — enough to beat last year’s phone and your immediate competition, and no more.
While this would be a clever strategy to optimize profits, it seems unlikely that the technology will advance incrementally because of this reason. By the very nature of the estimates provided earlier in the Time article, it’s more like that the technology will be implemented incrementally because the improvements are being developed incrementally. There is no doubt that poor battery life for portable electronics is a big pain point for consumers and it affects their purchasing decision significantly. According to a 2013 survey discussed at phonearena.com, the single main gripe of today’s mobile phone user is battery life (1 in 3). 71% of the survey respondents stated that a long-lasting battery was the single most important feature desired in a new phone. While it’s difficult to tell whether or not that smartphone you have is using Amprius technology, it seems more likely than not that some day it will.