Towards perpetual equipment by avoiding batteries

Dr Peter Harrop
Towards perpetual equipment by avoiding batteries
Stone Age implements were passed between generations. Then the abacus and the Singer sewing machine were passed between generations so cost per operation approached zero. Today you can still see some 50 year old transistor radios in use. The almost "perpetual" product is nothing new though of course, nothing strictly lasts forever.
Now think of Internet of Things nodes deployed in hundreds of billions, many still working in one hundred years from now despite being inaccessibly embedded in concrete of bridges and buildings, on billions of trees and so on. Think of remote communities and the emerging nations having electric vehicles that are virtually maintenance free and are passed between generations to give travel almost free of charge. Return to a distant planet to find your robots still at work. It would all be in the tradition we describe but how can we do it?
Eliminating batteries is key says IDTechEx Research in the new report Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering 2018-2028 They have serious limitations of cost, weight, space, toxicity, flammability, explosions, energy density, power density, leakage current, reliability, maintenance and/ or life. Lithium-ion batteries will dominate the market for at least ten years and probably much longer yet no lithium-ion cell is inherently safe and no lithium-ion battery management system can ensure safety in all circumstances. Tesla says it will have solar bodywork on all its electric vehicles but, as this trend from "components-in-a-box" to structural electronics and electrics progresses, the batteries are the problem because even solid state ones swell and shrink in use. They would destroy bodywork.
The negative material recycling value of modern batteries is a threat to the environment because it may lead to uncontrolled disposal. Add to that the depletion of limited cobalt reserves and one can see that even the start of a journey towards battery elimination can give valuable wins.
Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering 2018-2028 uniquely examines the many ways of eliminating batteries, confounding the sceptics with many examples currently operating, from large electric buses with supercapacitors enjoying four times the life to small electric buses with no energy storage for traction. Hundreds of thousands of buildings already have electronic climate controls and electric actuators with no energy storage, pointing the way to how the Internet of Things can succeed.
The replacement of batteries with long life energy storage is covered: the alternatives have better safety and suitability for use in planned smart materials. However, the main focus is complete elimination of energy storage by new forms of energy harvesting that are almost continuous. The approach is realistic, recognising that the market for batteries will continue to rise rapidly for a very long time.
Battery Elimination in Electronics and Electrical Engineering 2018-2028 has over 200 pages packed with new infograms, statistics and forecasts. The Executive Summary and Conclusions is self-standing and sufficient for busy people. The Introduction introduces the problems and solutions, including technologies to add to energy harvesting to provide the continuity of electricity supply that leads to less or no battery, such as dynamic charging of vehicles through roads.
The work was researched by PhD level analysts travelling worldwide and examination of IDTechEx databases, web research, recent conferences and other sources. The emphasis is on practicality, benchmarking and opportunity rather than theory so the third chapter looks at eliminating energy storage from sensors, building controls, cellphones and robot ships, sharing recent breakthroughs and predictions. Deliberately these examples expose very different challenges and solutions.
Chapter 4 is entirely devoted to the important topic of Internet of Things nodes without batteries - key to mass deployment. It reveals the exciting progress of EnOcean GmbH in this respect. This contrasts with Chapter 5 revealing the very different way in which electric vehicles and mobile e-cooking progress to no battery. This chapter also encompasses how to replace 700GW of diesel gensets across the world with transportable green sources with little or no battery and how the new energy independent electric vehicles (EIV) with quoted "perpetual" speed fit in with all this. Chapter 6 contemplates the grid without energy storage, currently a hot topic in that industry and finally, the largest chapter is Chapter 7 because it looks very thoroughly at evolving energy harvesting technologies for battery replacement.