Trends in battery development are reflecting the form factors required of the products they are supplying power to: thin and flexible. Wearables, including fitness and medical types, are designed to be unobtrusive and flexible to function in motion with the human body and that necessitates a power source with the same qualities.
BrightVolt is meeting this challenge with their solid-state ultra-thin film lithium polymer batteries. Their solutions come in a variety of sizes (standard sizes or custom made) and can be primary or rechargeable, allowing them to suit a wide range of design specifications and applications. The batteries are so flexible that they can be rolled up to fit inside a casing of similar size to some pens, and they are safe to use, disposable, and non-toxic. For their innovation, BrightVolt won the award for ‘Best New Material or Component Development’ for wearable technology.
Enfucell Oy is also providing a thin, flexible, eco-friendly battery solution geared towards low power applications like wearables and IoT technology. Their SoftBattery is all-printed, allowing for low-cost manufacturing. The proprietary technology uses a reaction between zinc and manganese dioxide mediated with zinc chloride as an electrolyte. A range of sizes and shapes are available and customization is offered to fit different design requirements.
Figure 17: Three standard specifications of SoftBattery technology: Reg 1.5 V (middle), Mini 1.5 V (right), and Reg 3.0 V (top).
These battery technologies are enabling progressive form factors for wearable technologies especially. Their low cost and eco-friendliness also provides added value.
Outside the wearable and IoT space, Magi Scitech promoted their CNT (carbon nanotube) batteries. The design boasts a longer life cycle, up to 5x the length of conventional lithium ion technology. The battery has a relatively low working temperature and is also non-flammable and has no explosive properties, making it a safe and more eco-friendly choice. The design and long life cycle of the batteries are ideal for use in commercial drones, allowing the drones to fly further for longer.
Of course, reinventing traditional technology can also be a productive development path. That is what 24M has done with conventional and widely popular lithium ion technology. Their semisolid lithium ion cells have been designed to remove approximately 80% of inactive materials that are found in conventional cells, resulting in a significant reduction in cost (40% less). The cells also store more energy than conventional designs. The applications of the technology are distributed between grids, EVs, and custom designs (e.g. consumer applications). As well, the battery cells display exceptional safety (i.e. abuse tolerance). The reduction in materials and cost, combined unparalleled capacity and safety earned 24M the award for Best Technical Development within Energy Storage.
Murata also shared their advancements in power technology. Their UMA series of rechargeable small energy devices are able to charge very quickly because, unlike conventional batteries, UMA batteries can be charged without current limitation. This significantly reduces the time needed to charge, with almost 80% capacity reached after just 3 minutes of charging and 100% capacity reached after 10 minutes of charging (compared to the one hour it takes most conventional batteries to achieve 100% capacity from empty). Further the batteries are very safe and have 8 times the cycle life of conventional rechargeable batteries. Altogether, the attributes of these devices (e.g., small, quickly charged, long life) make them ideal as energy storage solutions for energy harvesting. When paired with energy harvesters (solar, thermoelectric, RF, vibration), the batteries could efficiently power sensors and other IoT devices.
Thank you for tuning into our series on the amazing technologies presented at IDTechEx 2016. As so many hurdles have been overcome and incredible breakthroughs produced, what the next few years will bring seems almost unimaginable. We are just now seeing the more wide-scale deployment of advanced wireless sensor networks, automated smart technologies ranging from personal to city-wide, and the latest developments in energy harvesting and battery design. With so many prototyping and consultative services available, there is no better time than to provide needed solutions and innovate the next generation of technologies.