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April 28, 2012

Nokia Science Part 1: Nano chat with Chris Bower

Last week I caught up with Chris Bower, a leading material scientist from our laboratories in Cambridge (yes that’s right, the home of clever). We had a great chat/interview about all sorts of Nanotech mobile possibilities. In Part 1, I will be conveying his views on the future of the technology, phone aesthetics, battery life and flexible devices. Look out for Part 2 on Nokia Connects next week.

We kicked off our chat with a ‘light’ discussion about how Nano technology can alter the colour of your phone! This was before we delved into the more complicated stuff….

Nanostructures can be used to build stretchable polymers that alter the colour of your phone (how cool would it be if you could change the colour of your phone simply by stretching it?). When you elongate your device it could for example change from red to blue, purple to yellow or any other colour combination, without using any power. Colour changing surfaces are good news for those people who can’t decide on settling for just one colour.

Nano technology and battery life:

If you apply Nanostructure to a material you can massively increase it’s surface area. Picture this Nano process in laymen’s terms; you take a flat surface the size of a matchbox and start etching pits or crevices into it at a Nano scale, these pits mean that the boundary of the surface area does not increase but the area inside the boundary does. This is important for the future of phones batteries because the amount of charge you can store in a phone often depends on the surface area of the electrodes, so if you start to nanostructure some of the electrode materials you can increase the power density, which equals, you guessed it…..longer battery life!

Chris thinks that applying this process to Lithium ion batteries could increase their charge by at least a few days…great news for the short-term future of phone batteries!

The future of Nano technology and flexible phones (like the Nokia concept HumanForm device):

We are working on the enabling technologies behind these sorts of flexible devices, so how you would make the flexible/stretchable electronic core of a phone like the HumanForm. How we make the interconnects and transistors flexible using Nanotechnology is very tricky – overcoming these tasks will hopefully bring a smile to lots of peoples faces though, which makes the challenge very worthwhile!

Ideally we want to incorporate a touch screen with functional movements like ‘bend to zoom’ and ‘twist to advance menu’ for example. The user could have lots of possible ways to interact with the device and ultimately they can choose which works best for them. There will be lots of other benefits like lightness and robustness because you are taking the glass away, lighter – you can put it in your back pocket, sit on it and not worry about it breaking it/dropping it etc.

The mass market potential of a flexible Nano device and whether we’re close to seeing one:

Mass production of Nanostructures is hard to crack, Nano tech is roughly 2/3 years away but we are working on incorporating the technology into larger and larger models. I still think there is huge mass market potential for a flexible device right now though. When we showed the Nokia Kinetic device to people at Nokia World 2011 there was an overwhelming response. The stand was inundated with people wanting to see it and get their hands on it. The best part of the whole experience was not having to explain how it worked, it really is intuitive in its very nature.

I really can’t give too much away about when we will see the launch of a flexible phone. Watch this space, you’ve seen the videos of the concept devices and the Super Hydrophobic coatings, so I guess there could be lots of stuff in the pipeline…I really can’t divulge anymore.

Question for the Nokia Connects community:

I would be interested to know what the Nokia Connects community would do with a bendy device and what they think are the advantages of it?

P.s. I will upload a big gallery of exclusive photos for you all to check out next week