“The Death of Batteries” to “Hand Early Investors Life-Changing Gains?”

Looking into the Oxford Club's teased "tiny tech company" and their new "super-capacitor" breakthrough

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, July 23, 2013

If you can harness the frustration of the thousands of people whose cell phone batteries die at an inopportune time, or those whose children run through dozens of AA batteries in a weekend with their electronic toys, you might just change the world. Or at least, get a lot attention for your latest stock newsletter promo campaign that promises “The Death of Batteries.”

Battery power has brought incredible convenience and mobility to our lives, but it’s also a pain in the neck — you get dependent on these little power cells, and get to believe that you can have a supercomputer in your pocket that works all the time … but then you leave the GPS on for a couple hours, or play a few games of Fruit Ninja while waiting for the bus and, well, there goes your phone for the day. Wouldn’t it be great if these little gadgets could charge up in 30 seconds? Or hold ten times as much power? That’s basically the promise of most of the “next generation battery” teasers we see — that there’s a company who’s about to take away that frustration and inconvenience … and in so doing, naturally, make you filthy, stinkin’ rich.

That doesn’t mean these teasers always work, of course — I remember giving a presentation at a conference several years ago about a few of the most egregious teaser “promises” that had been made, and one of them was the oft-teased “Forever Battery” spiel about a company whose revolutionary advance would change the world because batteries would last, well, forever. The company did finally start selling a product, their idea is basically a new active membrane that means batteries don’t degrade over time so they could last “forever” if you don’t use them, giving you a nice $300 backup flashlight for your bomb shelter (“forever” means “twenty years”, by the way) — and they are trying to develop a “nano size” battery, too, for cell phones and such. Developing a teensy niche product after five years and selling a few of them doesn’t do much for the stock price, though, they went from about ten cents a share when they were first being pitched by Untapped Wealth to five cents a few months later, then they traded at about a penny a share for quite a while, and now they’re down to about a tenth of a cent. Amazingly still around and apparently still raising money from someone to stay afloat, with revenue of about $2,000 a year (that’s only ten of their fancy flashlights) and a market cap of a couple million dollars. So that’s the poster child I keep in mind when wondering whether a promising battery technology that sounds super-sexy in the teaser ads can become a product and generate sales.

But that’s not the story we’re being pitched today, of course (though I do still see those “forever battery” pitches from Untapped Wealth every now and then — sometimes these ads won’t die, even if the company they’re teasing does).

This time we’re looking at a substantially larger company, teased by the folks who run the Oxford Club, a much larger and more mainstream operation. So what’s their battery promise? Here’s a taste from the ad:

“The Death of Batteries

“Tiny Tech Company’s New ‘Super-Capacitor’ Breakthrough About to Revolutionize the Energy and Electronics Industries as We Know Them….

“Picture a world where you don’t have to charge your batteries any more.

“You’d never lose power in the middle of an important phone call…

“Or have to search for outlets in a crowded airport.

“No more untangling cords in the car…

“No more waking up to a dead smartphone…

“And say goodbye to those trips to the mall to replace your $25 watch battery.

“You probably think this sounds like a bit of a pipedream, right?

“But ‘The Death of Batteries’ is about to become a very real event, thanks to a new discovery that just won the Nobel Prize for physics.

“It involves a material that gives the world a radically new way to store energy.

“We believe this substance – and the battery revolution it’s about to trigger – will go down as the biggest tech story since the invention of the Internet.”

So … from that, the Oxford Club folks say that they’ve got the idea that will “Hand early investors life-changing gains.” What is it? More from the ad:

“I’m not talking about some far-fetched advancement that might… possibly… if everything goes just right… hit the markets a decade from now.

“Rather, it’s likely you will be holding this new kind of battery in your hand within a few years… if not months… from right now.

“And we’ve just identified one small company that holds over 230 patents on this remarkable material….

“… this one small company with a modest $1.3 billion market cap holds the key.

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“And our research shows it’s ideally positioned to revolutionize the $89 billion global battery industry….

“This could very well be the best single-stock opportunity you’ll see in your lifetime.”

As you might have guessed by now, the “remarkable material” and “Rock Star substance” that the Oxford folks are talking about is graphene — the nanamaterial that’s produced from a sheet of graphite (carbon) that’s only one atom thick. The folks who were able to isolate these sheets of graphene using a mechanical process (um, “sticky tape”) did indeed receive the Nobel Prize a few years back, and graphene is being intensively researched by pretty much every University and electronics-related or materials-focused corporation in the world because of its incredible promise as a thin, incredibly strong, highly conductive material that could, among other potential veins of exploration, replace silicon as the foundation for the next era in electronic innovation.

What does this “tiny” company have to do with graphene? Here’s how the ad puts it:

“… most amazing is that one tiny company holds the most important patents for producing this material.

“Right now, Fortune 500 companies are lining up to get their hands on it… and roll out these new batteries in their next product lines.

“Imagine what this could do for a company like Samsung, for instance, if they suddenly were the first company to release a cell phone that didn’t need charging. Or a television that didn’t need to be plugged in.”

The promise, we’re told, is the graphene-based super-capacitor.

No, not Flux Capacitor — those are still a few years off, I’m afraid, and we’ll have to see if there are any DeLoreans left by the time that advancement happens.

Super capacitors are, as you might imagine, really powerful capacitors — a capacitor is sort of like a battery, but it’s much, much better at really fast charging and discharging and much, much worse at storing a large amount of energy in a small space, with energy density that’s far worse than a conventional battery. Part of the promise of graphene is that it might enable the creation of capacitors that are as energy dense as batteries, which would make recharging almost instant compared to current battery technologies. The ad quotes a recent Slate article about the potential breakthrough, that article was based on the “accidental” discovery of a cheap way to create graphene in a DVD burner. Check it out if you want a quick overview of what the reality of this technology is, but they don’t, of course, discuss our “secret” company in that article … for that we need to turn back