When Mohamed Morsy, Nick Kshatri and Matt Rosenblatt started a first-year engineering class at Pitt called The Art of Making, they had no idea that four years later, they’d still be working together.

The problem they hoped to solve: The more you charge your phone, the weaker the battery becomes.

“It was an idea I had prior to taking this class,” says Morsy. “Battery life is always a big issue for a cell phone. Everyone I know has faced this problem with their phone at some point.” What if there was a better way?

That question led to the trio’s creation of the Canal Battery Guard, which aims to preserve your phone’s battery, extending the lifespan of your phone. Where most smartphone manufacturers are adding ways to speed up charging, the Canal Battery Guard takes the opposite approach: slowing down charging overnight to give the battery periods of rest.

When using fast chargers overnight, your phone can heat up to 100 degrees, which degrades your battery over time. The Canal Battery Guard’s charging algorithm gives the phone battery rest periods to minimize overheating — the major factor in battery degradation. They’ve tested the Canal Battery Guard and found that it can cut battery decay by up to 50%, which could double the lifespan of a phone.

“You can probably feel your phone getting hot when it’s charging sometimes,” says Kshatri, Canal Battery Guard co-founder. “That’s really the core issue behind battery degradation. We tackle that by using the full eight hours when you’re sleeping — because most of us charge our phones overnight anyway — and spread that charging out over the eight hours. When you wake up, it’s still at 100 percent, but you didn’t keep your phone battery up (charging) and degrade the chemical process that the battery uses. So you can preserve your battery for longer.”

The Canal Battery Guard fits between the standard charging brick and USB cable, pictured below, and communicates with an app on your phone.

Photo courtesy of Canal Battery Guard.

“The app connects to the Battery Guard over Bluetooth,” says Morsy. “You go into the app before you go to bed and set up a wake-up time, kind of like an alarm. Then you hit start, and overnight it communicates with the Battery Guard to spread out that charging and control that charging process overnight.”

The Canal Electronics team won $5,000 in the University of Pittsburgh’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition which has helped get the fledgling company off the ground. The next step is a Kickstarter campaign, to be launched soon, on their website. They expect the device to eventually sell for $19, but those who support the Kickstarter can get it for $15.

“We’re basically using it to evaluate the demand for this product, as well as get it started,” says Morsy. “We believe in our product and know that it works and want to see how much demand there is for it.”

Morsy recently graduated from Pitt with a degree in electrical engineering, and Rosenblatt graduated with a degree in bioengineering. Kshatri just started his fifth year as as bioengineering student. Doing this in between classes hasn’t been easy.

“We haven’t had much spare time outside our coursework and doing this,” says Morsy. But it helps to have three involved. “It’s been great having more than one person to take the load off someone else when needed, and spread it out in a way that works for us.”