The Holy Grail for many entrepreneurs is to create a chargeless phone or battery.
Since Nokia and a few other players announced work on chargeless devices, there’s been slow progress. In 2012, an 18-year-old science prodigy came up with a tiny device that could charge a cell phone in 30 seconds. Despite reports at the time that Google was interested in the technology, there’s been no updates. It seems for not that we’ll have to rely on our chargers.
While we can’t yet get rid of our cords, entrepreneurs are working hard to minimize our reliance on traditional energy resources. Korean startup YOLK has come up with a solar charger called Solar Paper, and they’re claiming it’s the lightest and thinnest solar charger in the world. The startup just completed their Kickstarter, raising over $1 million USD of a $50,000 USD goal to become Korea’s most successful crowdfunded product.
The solar charger that can charge a smartphone in about 2.5 hours on a sunny day, says the company, which is about the same time amount as a wall charger. It’s thin and light enough that a user can fold it up, and take it anywhere.
Most solar chargers shut down and need to be manually reset after a cloud passes overhead and the voltage drops. However, Solar Paper automatically resets itself so the user can keep charging. It is also compatible with devices that recharge via USB, including smartphones, tablets, cameras and rechargeable batteries. For more powerful devices like tablets or cameras, or for faster charging, the user can opt to connect several solar paper panels to boost power.
So what’s involved in making the world’s thinnest and lightest solar charger? The company’s founder, Sen Chang says that “embracing high efficiency and durability while at the same time keeping a light weight is like chasing two hares at once. It requires accumulated technology and various attempts to build the product.”
One of YOLK’s of two founders, Sam Lim, has been working in the power industry for over 18 years and the solar industry for 7 years, with numerous patents.
“We didn’t receive any funding. Plus, I never worked in a startup before,” she says. “I always thought crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter give a great opportunity for designers to launch their products. What I love and do best is making things, so thought of launching my product there,” Chang says.
After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with BFA emphasis in design, she started working on solar products.
“Solar energy is a great natural resource, but it’s also hardly utilized in our daily life,” she says. “We decided to focus on this wonderful green technology to leverage it in everyone’s daily life.”
In fact, Solar Paper is her second project after last year’s Solarade, which is another solar charger that also succeed in reaching its crowdfunding goal in 2014, backed by 1,025 people.
There aren’t many female hardware founders so people look at Chang’s initiative with awe. “Personally, I think being a female hardware founder has a lot of pros than cons,” Chang continues. “Female hardware founder possesses a unique perspective or style, different from other products in a mainly male dominated market.”
After the first charger project, she was attracted by the synergy of technology and design. So she founded a solar charger company, YOLK. “Yolk is the yellow part of an egg. Yolk is often described as the sun, as it has round figure and yellow color. Just like a yolk can give nutrition to people, we wanted to give energy (nutrition) to electric devices using solar energy. That’s why we named it YOLK.”
Based in Seoul, Korea and Chicago in the U.S., Chang says that it’s YOLK’s mission to continue launching products that will bring more solar into our day-to-day lives.
Image Credit: Solar Paper