In late 2014, Samsung SDI
showed their new flexible, rollable battery
for wearables. Apple
has secured multiple patents of battery design for wearables and consumer electronics, having bought IP
from Infinite Power Solutions
, a solid-state thin film lithium battery company. Early in 2013, LG Chemical
delivered the world's first curved battery. Wearable technology is also driving new form factors from older battery technologies. For example, LG Chemical also developed a stepped battery, which incorporates two batteries
in a "step design" (over one another) which allows for unorthodox designs, filling every empty nook and cranny of smartphones. The new MacBook released in early 2015 also adopts this concept for its battery. LG Chemical has also announced that it is mass produced curved batteries. Other big names such as Nokia, Showa Denko
are making their contributions in this area as well.
Kim Scheffler, Wearables Development Manager at Adidas Wearable Sports Electronics
recently said, "Fully integrating electronics into textiles is limited by battery
technology today". From lead acid, nickel-cadmium, to nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries
, the development of batteries has significantly lagged many other components.
For example, lithium-ion batteries, which are the mostly successful commercial battery system nowadays, have only seen a 1.6 times improvement in energy density over the last 24 years. Moores law adherence this is not! It is already very optimistic to expect the energy density of lithium-ion battery to increase another 30% in five years' time. Materials that can be chosen for the battery development are also limited.
That brings us a question: What is the future direction for wearable and mobile devices regarding energy usage?
Both electronic device makers and battery
companies are working on other approaches besides looking for new battery systems or improving the performance of existing battery systems. The first approach is to reduce the energy consumption of electronics, such as the CPU and displays. Another direction is the charging method, such as integrating energy harvesting
, rapid charging and wireless charging. Now huge emerging topics such as wearable technology and IoT require some different parameters, such as ultra-thinness, small physical footprints, flexibility and light weight which are becoming increasingly prized.
Thin, flexible or printed batteries
have commercially existed for more than 15 years. Traditionally, the micro-power thin and printed batteries were used in skin patches, RFID
tags and smart cards
but none leading to large orders of more than a million a month. Today, however, the composition of the target market is undergoing drastic change driven by the emergence of new addressable market categories. The following charts from IDTechEx Research show how the applications of flexible batteries will evolve over the next ten years, creating a $400 million market in 2025.
In a decade, the market will be dominated by wearable and medical devices, with portable electronics and IoT with energy harvesting
likely to be one of the major emerging markets.
Also, to meet people working in the printed and flexible electronics industries attend IDTechEx Show! Europe 2015 on 28-29 April in Berlin, Germany, see www.IDTechEx.com/europe
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Top image: Credit D. MacKenzie, Imprint Energy