Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering | IDTechEx Research Article

Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering

Let us be more ambitious and look at elimination of all energy storage.

Dr Peter Harrop
Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering
No. Let us be more ambitious and look at elimination of all energy storage. Supercapacitors and their derivatives have taken about one percent of the energy storage business addressed by lithium-ion batteries and they will take a bit more but the heroic objective is removing all energy storage. The two reasons for this are that it is the major source of problems with existing equipment and it is stopping us doing many of the things we seek to do next, such as wireless sensor (mesh) networks and Internet of Things both deployed in billions of inaccessible places. As pollution laws appropriately tighten it is inhibiting us from having disposable medical electronics and disposable postal drones, though both have been demonstrated. We need biodegradable. The energy storage impedes us from making mobile phones that last as long as we need before recharging as we add more and more "gas guzzling" extra capabilities.
Although lead acid battery production will soon peak due to vehicle electrification and market saturation of cars, the lithium-ion batteries that replace them are a booming industry showing no easing of growth even in IDTechEx's ten year forecasts. About 50 lithium-ion battery gigafactories are being built in coming years mainly driven by:
  • Increased use of mobile electronic and electric devices
  • The automotive, marine and aerospace industries are moving to electric vehicles, wholly or in part
  • Increase in solar and wind power feeding national grids, microgrids and gensets makes them more intermittent and unresponsive to demand
There are now about 500 manufacturers of the dominant lithium-ion batteries, up from about 200 six years ago. And yet batteries, by far the dominant form of energy storage, bring difficulties such as cost, space, reuse, recycling (Li-ion has negative value), weight, toxicity, reliability, explosions, flammability, maintenance, power density, energy density and leakage current. Batteries currently cannot support the trend to structural electronics, instead of components-in-a-box, because they shrink and expand on each cycle. See the IDTechEx report, "Structural Electronics 2017-2027: Applications, Technologies, Forecasts". Loss of output is relatively unpredictable for both rechargeable and single use batteries, creating frustration and even risk. They are not suitable for IoT and sensors in the concrete of a building or bridge, on billions of trees and so on.
Learn from the past
How do we eliminate batteries and other energy storage? Firstly we can learn from the past. Batteries have been eliminated in small ways for many years. Examples are the piezoelectric gas lighter, the "electrodynamic" bicycle dynamo instead of a battery light and the piezoelectric or electrodynamic light switch that has no wiring. These tend to be in applications that provide electricity only when a force is applied.
Be ambitious
Can we replace the grid batteries the size of a building and the huge electric car or bus battery, preferably by having no energy storage at all? In the new IDTechEx report, "Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering" it is shown that there is every prospect of doing just that.
Stop over specifying
The name of the game is managing with as little electricity as possible to make the problem easier. The trend to ARM chips, LEDs and the like is excellent in this respect but still there is over specifying. For those happy with a simpler mobile phone, one is being developed with no battery that uses only 3.5 microwatts from solar and ambient radio signal power. You will just keep using it for years. Developing nations anyone? For those who only use their microbus in daylight there is a solar microbus on Alibaba that has no battery.
For those wanting a game with a simple display and maybe disposable, then the new triboelectrics has been shown to replace the battery using everyday non-toxic materials. In London, Lord Drayson, of electric racing car fame, wanted people to monitor pollution and tweet results to get more action. He wanted a very low cost, simple device with no energy storage so he launched the world's first mass produced device garnering ambient radio power and used the lowest power sensor which only monitors CO but is a surrogate for the particulates, acid gases and carbon dioxide of primary concern.
Benchmark new technologies and achievements
Too often, batteries dominate the cost, space and problems of the systems they inhabit. Increasingly, although batteries are improving, little known alternative approaches are increasingly superior. It can be commercially prudent to work on those that are not yet ready for prime time but that will eliminate the need for energy storage entirely in a given application. There is also huge scope for applying market ready technologies that eliminate energy storage from one sector to another. The new IDTechEx report, "Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering 2018-2028" appraises all the new technologies and gives the technology and sales roadmap.
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Energy Storage Innovations USA 2017 External Link on 15 - 16 Nov 2017 in Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, USA hosted by IDTechEx.