The market advantage of a new technology or new product comes from the unique features which distinguish it from other technologies or products. Compared to conventional batteries, the main feature of thin film batteries (TFBs) is that they are truly all solid state (no liquid or polymer). All active layers of a TFB are made of inorganic materials. Therefore, they are highly reliable, safe, and can be processed and operated in conditions where other batteries would fail.
Excellatron batteries have the following practical advantages:
TFBs are an ideal power source for applications that require a small current drain, high peak power output, and long durability.
Based on the unique advantages and properties of TFBs, the initial market for these batteries will be in devices that require a small current drain but have easy access for recharging. Examples of these devices include smart cards, active RFID tags, and printed circuit boards. A solid state mini/micro battery is required in these applications because of the need for processibility and functionality under special conditions.Excellatron’s battery technology is ideal to act as a microbattery or even a nanobattery for embedding onto a printed circuit board, flexicircuit or even into a microcircuit. These paper-thin batteries are the only power sources that can be made small enough to embed into MEMS devices and wireless micro sensors. These flexible batteries can also support electronic ink type displays. In addition, these rechargeable batteries also offer a battery-on-a-chip power solution for system-on-a-chip devices.
Other potential markets for TFBs include integrated circuits which require batteries that can withstand the solder reflow process, and medical applications that have stringent requirements for safety and durability.
With further advancement of our technology and development of the market, our next target market will be applications that require high temperature, high pulse power operations. Conventional lithium or lithium ion batteries, for example, cannot operate at 80ºC; but our battery can deliver pulse power (as high as 1,000C rate) at this temperature.
Some smart cards or active radio frequency identification (RF-ID) tags are manufactured through high temperature (130ºC to 150ºC), high pressure (~200 N/cm²) lamination processes. Batteries used in these products have to survive these conditions. Most conventional batteries will fail in these applications because of degassing and degradation of organic content inside of the battery. Excellatron’s thin film batteries have been successfully laminated inside of smart cards and retained their capacity and cyclability. Smart cards promise to become combination ATM/debit/credit cards, portable healthcare files, airline tickets and frequent flier cards. They can also be used to authorize stock trades, open doors to the office, check out books at the library, store digital cash to pay for subway rides, parking meters and candy at vending machines, and even as car and hotel key devices. Unlike the current cards used by one organization for only a few simple functions, use of multi-function smart cards by more than one organization significantly increases the complexity. This complexity puts additional demands on the microchip in the card and commensurately increases the power required to securely and reliably perform these tasks.
While there is a huge market for smart cards that are more powerful versions of the existing magnetic strip cards carried by everyone, there is also emerging a new class of specialty smart cards used in security applications. These high-end cards are used to secure expensive goods, control access to secure physical and virtual space, or validate authority to access intellectual property such as music, television programs and feature motion pictures. Cards that include on-chip biometric fingerprint sensors are under investigation for increased security and reliability.
Conventional batteries, including liquid and polymer lithium ion batteries, cannot be used in this application because they cannot be processed at high temperature (> 130ºC), high pressure (> 200 N/cm²) conditions that are required for smart card production, especially when in a charged state. There are also safety concerns related to the use of traditional batteries because of potential gas or even liquid release in these batteries. Excellatron batteries have survived all card lamination conditions safely, and have been successfully laminated into smart cards with no loss in capacity and cycle life.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are devices containing information that can be transmitted to a reader to verify authenticity, to control inventory, or to control access to virtual or physical space. RFID tags can combine a unique identifier such as a serial or batch number with data on the physical environment such as temperature or shock collected by sensors integrated into the device, thereby preventing spoilage or malfunction. RFID tags are designed to transfer and store data in several ways; e.g. read-only, read-write or read-wipe. The transmission technology determines how close the device needs to be to a reader. Contactless devices such as financial transaction or access control devices work at a range of 1 cm and require conscious submission of the device for scanning. Unconscious identification is possible at distances as far as 1-2 meters for transactions such as passport, visa or staff access authorizations while moving though a checkpoint.
Additional functionality in RFID tags requires an increase in the power requirements. Typical RFID tags used today are passive and require no power storage since the power required to transmit the signal over a very limited distance is generated inductively while the tag is in the proximity of the reader. Newer generations of active tags require battery power to maintain the ongoing data collection required by sensors or to power an on-board clock. RFID tags that can communicate several different sets of data to specific readers are under development and will require small and reliable batteries to support these functions.
RFID applications in transportation include systems for vehicle fleet management, location of trains and train cars or electronic tollbooths. Other RFID solutions include livestock husbandry, luggage verification at airlines, automated ski lifts or industrial laundries. The European Central Bank is working to embed radio frequency identification tags into the fibers of Euro bank notes by 2005.
Today electronics are an integral part of medical care and all electronics require electrical power to operate. The development of new and more sophisticated implantable medical devices is creating a need for a small rechargeable battery with a high rate capability.
Since the first cardiac pacemaker was implanted in 1960, the use of batteries in devices that are implanted has grown into a worldwide market exceeding $4 billion. While the pacemaker and defibrillator industry is interesting, existing and well established primary batteries meet most of the needs of these segments. Some new implantable technologies of much interest include:
Hearing loss or deafness is increasingly being treated with cochlear implants.Most cochlear implants use leads that are inserted into the spiraling cochlea with electrodes that activate the auditory nerve. The lead is then attached to a hearing device. It is estimated that as many as 34 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss and that as many as 10,000 cochlear devices have been implanted. Excellatron has worked with several players in this field on development of batteries to complement their technologies.
Some of the most promising applications of implantable electronic devices are used in the treatment of afflictions of the nervous system. These devices, commonly called neurostimulators, deliver electrical pulses to specific areas of the central nervous system or directly to the brain. Neurostimulators are used in the treatment of epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and bladder control, and ongoing research is using these devices to treat spinal injuries in paraplegics.
In addition to the use of implantable medical devices for humans, there are special devices for implantation into animals. Implants are often used in research for tracking of animals and recording of scientific parameters in their natural habitat. Further, laboratory animals often receive implanted devices in basic physiology, neurology and other life sciences. This is an important first step towards FDA approval for human implantable devices.