Smartphone battery sharing service hits Korea

Choi Hyuk-jae and his younger brother Hyuk-jun together run MycooN Corp., a startup that provides the world’s first smartphone battery sharing service. Through MycooN, which works with up to 70 partners such as mobile dealers in Seoul and Busan, customers can trade off drained smartphone batteries for fully charged ones. The empty batteries will then be charged and passed on to another customer. The brothers said they hope to expand into other regions across the nation.

“My goal is to make every smartphone user ― there are currently around 35 million users in Korea ― receive our services at least once a year,” said the elder Choi in an interview with The Korea Herald. “I don’t think it is such a far-fetched idea since people always want quickly charged batteries.”

The cheap price of 3,000 won per transaction is especially appealing for smartphone users, he said. Extra fees are charged for deliveries based on distance. MycooN conducts voltage tests on the recharged batteries as well as the empty batteries to make sure that they are properly working. The brothers added that initially they use only new and authorized batteries, so there is no need for customers to be concerned about malfunctioning batteries damaging their smartphones. They also spoke of how some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their batteries with complete strangers.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

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Graphene smartphone to arrive soon

2014_02_graphene smart phoneSamsung Techwin and researchers from the Seoul National University co-developed touch screen smartphone with a promising new material ‘graphene’ layer. They developed smartphones based on technology for mass production of graphene, paving the way for the commercial production of graphene, analysts said.

Samsung Techwin’s Research & Development (R&D) Center and the chemistry department professor Hong Byung-hee and his researchers from Seoul National University noted Monday that they succeeded in applying touch screen made out of large-scale graphene film to Samsung’s smartphone ‘Galaxy.’ The research outcome was announced in the international academic journal in the nano field ‘ACS Nano.’

The latest research demonstrated the possibility of mass producing mobile phones using graphene, opening the way for graphene to be utilized in diverse areas including bendable displays and semiconductors.

The researchers adopted ‘Rapid Thermal CVD’ technology to produce graphene film. This technology saves time for mass production of graphene from 300 to 40 minutes, allowing for production of quality graphene with the size of 400×300㎟ at low temperatures.

For full article, see Maeil Business.

Big Biz gives up on basic research

“Corporate research institutes nowadays are reducing mid- to long-term projects and have started reassigning researchers into business departments,” said a researcher in his 40s who is employed at Samsung. “I wanted to pursue my research career in a more stable environment, so I applied to the ETRI despite the lower annual salary it offers.”

Conglomerates are under increasing pressure to find the next-generation hit product. That leads them away from mid- to long-term research and development (R&D) projects. In such a fast-changing market, companies like Samsung, LG and SK are trimming their long-term R&D departments.

Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), located in Yongin, southern Gyeonggi, was the birthplace of key semiconductor and smartphone technologies. It mainly researches next-generation products that could be profitable years down the line. In September last year, SAIT started downsizing its research workforce of 1,500 researchers with doctorate and master’s degrees by 50 percent. The researchers are being relocated to Samsung’s other research institutes that study the commercialization of almost-completed technologies, including a mobile handset research center and an electronics material research complex.

“SAIT studies technologies that will nurture the ‘seed industries,’ which will be Samsung’s leading business,” an official from Samsung Group said. “This is simply a reshuffle of research workforce, moving them a step closer to the business departments as their key projects have matured to be commercialized soon.”

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

LG Electronics supplies Google with auto parts

LG Electronics has provided four high-speed battery chargers for Google’s electric vehicle plug-in charging stations in a bid to make headway in the automotive industry while strengthening its relationship with Google, industry sources said on Sunday. LG said it did not manufacture the chargers, and that they were made by another domestic firm.

The deal appeared to have been discussed in detail in October 2013 when Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited LG Electronics’ Incheon campus, where LG’s automobile parts and components division is located. For months prior, the two firms reportedly met on several occasions to talk about cooperating on Google’s smart cars. The deal may now help the two IT giants, which already enjoy a partnership with the Nexus phones, to expand their partnership in the auto industry despite LG’s still-weak performance in the vehicle component areas.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Korean carmakers step up R&D to build affordable electric vehicles

South Korean carmakers and the government are stepping up research and development (R&D) to build affordable electric-powered vehicles with good range, industry sources said Monday. Sources said the plan is to make electric vehicles (EV) that cost under 30 million won (US$27,900) and travel at least 300 kilometers on a single power charge by 2020.

Seoul has already earmarked 130 billion won to be used until 2018 to make EVs and next-generation energy storage systems so that 75 percent of all rechargeable batteries can be made in the country without foreign assistance. The present self-sufficiency rate stands at around 20 percent. Key to that is the development of a high-density lithium-ion battery, with a master plan to be drawn by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy by March. Making high-endurance, cheap batteries is critical because they account for roughly 60 percent of an EV’s price tag.

At present, EVs made by U.S. carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. have a range of up to 370 kilometers, which is competitive vis-a-vis conventional cars with an internal compression engine, but such EV models have prohibitive sticker prices of $63,000. Tesla reported sales reaching 2,000 units per month.

For full article, see Yonhap News.

Korea, Japan and China competition heats up over rechargeable battery

The competition in the secondary cell battery industry has expanded from mobile devices to electric car, sparking the race for ‘rechargeable battery big bang.’ In the rapidly growing global secondary cell battery market, which expanded 96 percent last year, South Korea, Japan and China are more fiercely competing over attracting personnel, new technology, patents and others.

Since overtaking Japan for the first time in 2011, Korea grabbed the top market share in the global small lithium ion (Li-ion) battery segment of the global rechargeable battery market last year for the third year, said sources in the relevant sector Monday. Japan had been an uncontested top country with 51.1 percent market share in 2008, but the figure has continued to drop to reach 34.3 percent last year. China is the third biggest country with 18.3 percent market share.

Samsung SDI shipped the highest 1.1 billion cells of rechargeable batteries and took the top rank, and LG Chem the third highest 715 million cells. Panasonic retained the second place with 718 million cells, and Sony the fourth with 316 million cells.

For full article, see Maeil Business.