Startup City Magazine

Better Batteries Needed to Power the Internet of Things

By Todd Peters, CEO, BrightVolt

Todd Peters, CEO, BrightVolt

Headquartered in Washington State, BrightVolt is the world's leader in the design, development and scale manufacturing of ultra-thin film batteries. Their patented Lithium Polymer design allows their batteries to be the thinnest, most flexible and yet maintain the highest energy density to power a wide variety of IoT devices.

Finally, the Internet of Things (IoT) is starting to mature, having a direct, positive impact on our homes, our cars, our world and even our own bodies. Under the umbrella of IoT, connected devices transmit useful, real-time information that empowers businesses to use that actionable data to make informed decisions, creating a sustainable and attractive value chain. And this is only the beginning, as components like batteries and microcontrollers become more efficient, smaller devices are able to do more work.

The industry is exploding with a fantastic array of products and applications ranging from vast sensor networks to wearable and medical patches. The key to addressing this massive market and its need for energy is developing customized power sources that are purpose-built and optimized for specific applications.

So what’s the Problem?

The challenge is battery technology has not kept pace with the safety and product requirements of next generation applications. Take, for example, the lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries used to power computers, smartphones and entertainment items like hover boards. Countless reports have surfaced about the seemingly spontaneous combustion of these devices due to faulty Li-ion batteries. The problem may not be with the devices themselves but with the type of battery used to power them.

Lithium is a highly volatile, flammable, and reactive substance that gets pressurized inside the battery. If the heat that naturally occurs during battery charging is not controlled properly, it can cause the compounds inside the battery to burst into flames or even explode. These compounds can become similarly unstable if the battery cell gets punctured. As more and incidents grab headlines, an increasing number of vendors and consumers are discovering the dangers of using Li-ion batteries.

It’s Time for New IoT Energy Sources

Last year, research firm Gartner projected that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015. And the number of connected things will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. Twenty billion connected things will require a lot of batteries safer, smaller and more powerful batteries than are available today.

Admittedly, battery advancements have been slower; then and not nearly as exciting as other hardware advancements like the smartphone and the electric car. But that’s changing battery innovations are here. Breakthroughs are changing the way batteries are developed and manufactured, and they are speeding innovations in areas where many and new types of batteries are needed to power IoT.

Batteries of Tomorrow

Revolutionary smart devices will demand the custom design of batteries that possess incredible power life, can withstand extreme fluctuations in temperature (-10 to 60 Celsius) and can fit just about anywhere.

Because Li-ion batteries can be flammable, companies like BrightVolt are developing and manufacturing batteries that are not only ultra-thin and flexible, but solid state and do not involve liquid Li-ion. This means they can be printed, heated and even laminated onto a range of emerging and exciting devices.

We know that one size and chemistry does not fit all new applications. My firm BrightVolt recently designed a custom secondary battery that was hollow and circular, as well as ultra-thin and flexible. We want to build our customers’ unique reliable power solutions that fit their products, not the other way around.

But we’re not stopping there. BrightVolt batteries are also non-toxic, non-corrosive and environmentally friendly unlike Li-ion batteries whose environmental impacts can include resource depletion and ecological toxicity.

Polymer Matrix Electrolyte (PME) Process Makes This Possible

BrightVolt has created a revolutionary method for manufacturing battery cells. This breakthrough is referred to as ‚The PME Approach’. This method offers a novel method of battery formulation and assembly that significantly improves battery performance and safety. This proprietary technology allows us to develop safer, smaller, flexible, and more powerful and customizable batteries, more quickly.

Briefly, we have developed a proprietary set of elements, Lithium Salt, Polymer and Solvent that mixes them into a single phase which we then interpenetrate the calendared cathode with. This simple but ingenious technology improves the safety, performance and even eases of manufacturing. This unique approach to battery development has been used successfully and repeatedly to commercialize ultra-thin and flexible batteries, with cost-effective manufacturing, at scale.

Unlike most other battery technology innovators who are still in the lab, we are into commercial production. PME has now been used to manufacture more than 10M ultra-thin film batteries that have been deployed in a range of commercial products.

Massive Opportunity

These are exciting years for emerging battery technology. IoT, wearable technology, sensors, medical devices, labels, even e-textiles are major growth areas for ultra-thin film and flexible batteries.

BI Intelligence also predicted that nearly $6 trillion will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years. We’re going to need a lot of batteries.

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