Sadly, 20-Second Cell Phone Charging Probably Still Just a Dream

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Last night, I wrote about Ionut Budisteanu, a Romanian teenager who won an Intel science award by inventing some cool technology that could make driverless cars cheaper. Today, Matt Yglesias picks up on this story, but also tells us about another award winner:

Eesha Khare, an 18 year-old from California, also did something with some major potential commercial applications and “developed a tiny device that fits inside cell phone batteries, allowing them to fully charge within 20-30 seconds.” We’re told that “Eesha’s invention also has potential applications for car batteries.”

I hadn’t noticed that, but a bit of googling produced several dozen breathless media reports about a new invention that will charge your cell phone in 20 seconds. I was a little skeptical: this didn’t sound like merely an Intel award winner, it sounded like a patentable invention that would turn Eesha Khare into an instant billionaire. So I checked into it a bit.

Long story short, it turns out that Khare did some interesting work in supercapacitors. This is obviously impressive for a teenager, but no, it’s not a fabulous new invention. Lots of companies have been working on supercapacitors for a long time, and lots of companies have investigated the specific chemistry that Khare used. The account here is perhaps a bit more dyspeptic than it should be, but I suspect the wrap-up is about right: “Add it all up and the central conclusion we can draw from all of this is that the mainstream media is stupid.”

Which is too bad. It would be nice to charge my cell phone in 20 seconds and my tablet in two minutes. Oh well.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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