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Teen's invention could charge your phone in 20 seconds (nbcnews.com)
25 points by DiabloD3 1406 days ago | hide | past | web | 25 comments | favorite

After an absurd amount of google`ing (given how much PR crap there was on the subject), I finnally found her project summary [1].

From what I understand of her description, she is not making a graphene supercapacitor. Based on her description, her device significantly outperforms other supercapacitors, and has comparable energy densities to classichal batteries. Given that this summary is what she actually submitted to the science fair, I doubt she would have won if it did not actually have merit to it.


Googling "Eesha Khare" took me to a bunch of crap articles saying only that she won the Intel Science fair and would revolutionize batteries. Intel's winner's page provided no additionaly details, and no link to her actual work. Eventually, I was able to find my way to the list of winners, which was nice enough to mention the title of her project. Googling the title finally got me to the document listed.

Even using the title in Google, while it did bring up articles that were nice enough to mention the name of her project, still did not bring up a single article that bothered to even link to her work.



A good trick to searching when you're bombarded with articles regurgitating the same information is to use the date tool. By asking Google to limit the search date to before the regurgitation of articles started, you're more likely to find quality sources for your search.

Ooh I didn't know that trick!

From my understanding she's a summer student at the Yat Li lab at UCSC.[1]

This concept is not newly developed by this young student[2][3], it seems that she's just a summer student who used the labs work to submit to the Intel competition, this is actually a very common practice for high school students. As usual the media overstated her role, the work was not done in the 2.5 months she has off for the summer solely by her. That's not to say she might not be bright, but it's not her genius that developed this concept, although she may have contributed. In fact this work was first submitted for publication in 2010[3], long before she joined the lab in 2012[4][5].

[1]http://www.usc.edu/CSSF//History/2013/Projects/S0912.pdf [credit: gizmo686]





Edit: Added reference showing she was not part of the Li lab in 2011. [5]

Intel Science Fair does more harm than good, since when it was the Westinghouse. It is one of the vestiges of privilege, where a bunch of rich (and a few lucky) kids get to hang out in a research lab and then write up the lab's work as their own, earning a branding of "genius" unavailable to the less privileged class.

Why is it harmful, you may ask? Because every smart kid who didn't get handed a professional project to submit, and doesn't know the game, thinks that he/she is so much less smart/hardworking/creative/accomplished than these supposed geniuses, and is discouraged from continuing in science research.

Lab experience is great for kids, and we should be expanding that experience to everyone, not using it as a tool to cement the position of the upper classes.

I read the article, and while it did not say how she made her "Invention" , it sounds like a graphene based super capacitor. Here is one video about them: http://focusforwardfilms.com/contest/84/the-super-supercapac...

There is lots of promise in this field, but I doubt that this young lady has jumped out in front of the pack.

That being said, I would be delighted if she made me eat my words.

This is basically what I thought upon reading the article. I find it hard to believe that a student, acting alone, would 'revolutionize' this industry, considering the dedicated teams of engineers and scientists trying to achieve this on a daily basis.

That being said, I would also like to eat my words here :)

Her invention is certainly probable and represents a significant achievement -- extremely impressive for a high school student -- but it is not "revolutionary." Her claimed specific energy is 20 Wh/kg, comparable to the state-of-the-art in nanostructured supercapacitors (not always graphene!) which a quick Google shows to be around 31 Wh/kg:


So her supercapacitor is roughly on par with similar nanostructured supercapacitors being developed. I must stress that the highest specific energy does not always mean the best technology, but practical/fabrication considerations can lead to different things making sense for different applications, in particular you have to watch out for the nasty tendency of some capacitors to short-circuit, which at supercapacitor energies means "kaboom!".

That last bit is why expensive tantalum capacitors are often preferred over cheaper fabrications with higher specific energy: tantalum is safe and reliable, which matters a lot.

edit: I should also point out that neither her supercapacitor nor other current nanostructured supercapacitor electrodes achieves an energy density on par with a cellphone battery. The specific energy of a lithium-ion polymer battery used in cellphones is roughly 150-200 Wh/kg: nearly ten times as much as this girl's claim!

Has anyone seen a "teen's invention" ever work?

When Gauss was a teenager, he put forward the theory for least squares. He also published the 17-gon creation proof before he was 20.

So the last time it happened was in 1795? That's encouraging.

You asked for a single example, not the most recent one.

Clearly, I meant "in recent memory, preferably on Hacker News", not "was the inventor of the wheel younger than twenty?".

A slightly more recent invention that I recall would be Jack Andraka's pancreatic cancer testing. Via Wikipedia[1]:

"Andraka's sensor costs $0.03 (to compare to a $800 cost of a standard test[10]) and 10 tests can be performed per strip, taking 5 minutes each. The method is 168 times faster, 26,667 times less expensive, and 400 times more sensitive than ELISA, and 25% to 50% more accurate than the CA19-9 test"

Discussion on Hacker News from last year: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4265830

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Andraka

That's a much better example, thanks. Still, I wouldn't place the odds very in the title's favor, but at least there are counterexamples...

I think this was just meant to be an amusing remark to make people laugh...

Oh, count me whooshed then.

Whooshed++ :)

"Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly at age 13 and 14" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Walters)

(Sorry, couldn't resist after seeing the remark on Gauss)

On a complete side note: did anyone else notice that the page changed urls as your scrolled to new articles. However, the page didn't reload. It was interesting, but it broke my browser's back functionality. Since I scrolled down and back up, my browser had ~10 pages in its history before I got back to HN.

Can an expert comment as to why this is too good to be true?

It isn't. Everything described in the article is consistent with graphene supercapacitors, although the article gives no technical details about what she actually did.

It is too good to be true. It's not a graphene supercapacitor it's a H::TiO2 with a PANI core based supercapacitor, which is quite difficult to synthesize, especially mass produced. Every reagent required is considerably more expensive than a comparable Li-Ion battery. They also have a significantly lower energy, so while they may be faster to charge and have longer life spans they wouldn't fit in modern phones.


Not an expert, but from what I understand it's a trade off. Super-capacitors hold much less charge than batteries.

There was a very interesting article about them on HN last year IIRC.

Maybe this one: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3723943 , but I'm still unclear if OP invention or break-through is for the same technology.

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