Tag Archives: Battery

Stretch Your Battery

Although there is no existence of a stretchable phone or laptop at present, researchers have developed a prototype of a battery that is wearable and can be stretched. This stretchable Lithium-ion battery is fabric-based. With this type of battery, the team of researchers, from the University of Houston, has opened up a new direction for the future of wearable technology.

Professor Haleh Ardebili first came up with the idea for this stretchable Li-ion battery. He initially envisioned a future with smart, interactive, and powered clothes. From here, it was but a natural step to create stretchable batteries that could integrate with stretchable devices and clothes. For instance, one can use clothes with interactive sensors embedded in them to monitor their health.

Typically, batteries are in general rigid and are a major bottleneck in the wearable technology development of the future. Not only does the stiffness of a battery lead to limited functionality, but their use of liquid electrolytes raises safety concerns. Especially as the organic liquid electrolyte is flammable and prone to explosions. The researchers are using conductive fabric made of silver as the platform for the flexible battery and as the current collector.

The team prefers the woven sliver fabric for the battery, as it can easily deform mechanically by stretching, while still providing the necessary electrical conduction pathways for the electrodes of the battery to perform. The battery electrodes need to allow the movement of both ions and electrodes. With their experiments and prototypes, the researchers have entered to investigate an unexplored field in science and engineering. Going beyond the prototype, the researchers are working on optimizing the design of the battery, its fabrication, and its materials.

According to the researchers, the fabric-based stretchable battery will work wonders for various applications like smart space suits and devices for interacting with humans at a variety of levels, such as consumer electronic equipment embedded in garments for monitoring health. In fact, the applications for such a device are endless, providing a path for light, safe, flexible, and stretchable batteries. However, the team feels they have much to do before they can commercialize their idea.

While they need to work on the cost and scale for commercial viability, the team feels there is a clear need in the market for such batteries, especially in the future, for stretchable electronic devices. Once such products appear in the market, there will be a huge demand for the batteries. Right now, the team wants to make sure the batteries are as safe as possible.

The team faced many challenges in designing the stretchable battery. It took more than five years for them to reach the present state. Their main impediment was integrating the fabric with a functional battery.

As to how the battery works, the team explained that while the electro-chemically active material in the battery provides charge through bonding and debonding of lithium, it coats and deposits on the sliver stretchable fabric. While the lithium ions shuttle back and forth within the battery between the positive and negative electrodes, the battery can stretch as the polymer electrolyte and the fabric can also do so.

Always-On Battery Life Improvement with ML Chip

Devices that must always remain on must conserve power in every way possible to extend their battery life. Their design starts with the lowest possible system power and every mode of operation must consume the bare minimum power necessary for operation. Now, with AML100, an analog machine learning or ML chip from Aspinity, it is possible to cut down the system power by up to 95%, even when the system always remains on. AML100 consumes less than 100 µA of always-on system power. This opens new types of products for biometric monitoring, preventive and predictive maintenance, commercial and home security, and voice-first systems, all of which are systems that continuously must remain switched on.

The movement of data to and from a system consumes power. One of the most effective ways of reducing power consumption is, therefore, minimizing the amount and movement of data through a system. The AML100 transfers the machine learning workload to the analog domain where it consumes ultra-low levels of power. The chip determines the relevancy of data with highly accurate and near-zero power. By intelligently reducing the data at the sensor, while it is still in the analog mode, the tiny ML chip keeps its digital components in low-power mode. Only when it detects important data, does the chip allows the analog data to enter the digital domain. This eliminates the extra power consumption in digitizing, processing, and transmission of irrelevant analog data.

The AML100 consists of an array of independent analog blocks configurable to be fully programmable with software. This allows the chip to support a wide range of functions that include sensor interfacing and machine learning. It is possible to program the device in the field, using software updates, or with newer algorithms that target other always-on applications. When it is in always-sensing mode, the chip consumes a paltry 20 µA, and it can support four analog sensors in different combinations like accelerometers, microphones, and so on.

At present, Aspinity is producing the AML100 chip in sampling numbers for key customers. The chip has dimensions of 7 x 7 mm and is housed in a 48-pin QFN package. Aspinity has slated the volume production of this chip for the fourth quarter of 2022 and is presently offering two evaluation kits with software. One of the kits is for glass breakage and T3/T4 alarm tone detection, while the other is for voice detection with preroll collection and delivery. Other kits with software for other applications are also available from Aspinity on request.

AML100 is the first product in the AnalogML family from Aspinity. It detects sensor-driven events from raw, analog sensors by classifying the data. It allows developers to design edge-processing devices with significantly low power consumption, those that are always on. The device has a unique RAMP or Reconfigurable Analog Modular Processor technology platform that allows the AML100 to reduce the always-on system power by more than 95%. This enables designers to build ultra-low power always-on solutions with edge-processing techniques for biomedical monitoring, predictive and preventive maintenance for industrial equipment, acoustic event monitoring applications, and voice-driven systems.

Monitoring Battery Health

The prolific use of battery-powered instruments for regular use in the consumer and industrial fields requires monitoring battery health for proper functioning. Usually, a battery health monitoring system uses a microcontroller and a software user interface. This arrangement monitors all the batteries in a battery bank 24×7 and identifies weak batteries before they actually fail. This helps to improve the overall performance of the system. Stationary applications such as data centers commonly use such battery health monitoring systems.

In vehicles too, it is necessary to have precise and reliable information about the state of health and state of charge of the battery. Battery health is sensitive to temperature, and conventional trucks and buses with diesel engines also frequently fail during winter and autumn. Now, vehicle fleets use solutions for monitoring battery health and the fleet manager does this in a centralized manner.

Analog Devices Inc. presents a solution for monitoring the state of health of primary batteries. The LTC3337 from Analog Devices provides information such as battery cell impedance, voltage, discharge, and temperature. The data from LTC3337 is not only accurate, but the readings are in real-time.

For monitoring the state of health of the battery in real-time, the user must place the LTC3337 in series with the battery terminals. Analog Devices ensure that the series voltage drop is negligibly small when the IC is in series with the battery. Analog Devices has integrated an infinite coulomb counter with a dynamic range to tally all the accumulated battery discharges. LTC3337 stores this information in an internal register which the user can access through an I2C interface. The user can program a discharge alarm with a threshold based on this state of charge. As soon as the state of charge crosses this threshold, the IC generates an interrupt at its IRQ pin. The accuracy of the coulomb counter is constant down to a no-load condition on the battery.

Analog Devices has designed the LTC3337 to be compatible with a wide range of primary batteries with varying voltages. For this, the user can select the peak input current limit of the LTC3337 from 5 mA to 100 mA.

The user can calculate the coulombs from either the BAT IN or BAT OUT pin of the LTC3337—the AVCC pin connection decides this. Some applications require using supercapacitors at the output of the IC. Analog Devices has provided a BAL pin for connecting a stack for supercapacitors for the purpose.

Analog Devices offers LTC3337 as an LFCSP or Lead Frame Chip Scale Package with 12 leads. There is an exposed pad for improving its thermal performance.

The LTC3337 can withstand a voltage range of 5.5 VDC to 8.0 VDC at its input. Its quiescent current is as low as 100 nA. The user can preset the peak input current limits depending on the type of the primary battery. The presents are 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50, 75, and 100 mA levels.

LTC3337 is meant for monitoring the state of health of batteries in low-power systems powered by primary batteries. It is very helpful for batteries providing backup and supplies in keep-alive scenarios.

Battery Electrolyte from Wood

Although there exist several types of batteries, all of them function with a common concept—batteries are devices that store electrical energy as chemical energy and convert this chemical energy into electricity when necessary. Although it is not possible to capture and store electricity, it is possible to store electrical energy in the form of chemicals within a battery.

All batteries have three main components—two electrodes or terminals made of different metals, known as anode and cathode, and the electrolyte separating these terminals. The electrolyte is the chemical medium allowing the flow of electrical charges between the terminals inside the battery, When a load connects to a battery, such as an electrical circuit or a light bulb, a chemical reaction near the electrodes creates a flow of electrical energy through the load.

The most commonly used battery today, the lithium battery, typically uses a liquid electrolyte for carrying electrical charges or ions between its electrodes. Scientists are also looking at alternatives like solid electrolytes for future opportunities. A new study offers cellulose derived from wood as one type of solid electrolyte. The advantage of this solid electrolyte from wood is its paper-thin width, allowing the battery to bend and flex for absorbing stress while cycling.

The electrolyte presently in use today in lithium cells has the disadvantage of containing volatile liquids. There is thus a risk of fire in case the device short-circuits. Moreover, there is the possibility of the formation of dendrites—tentacle-like growths—and this can severely compromise the battery’s performance. On the other hand, solid electrolytes, made from non-flammable materials, allow the battery to be less prone to dendrite formation, thereby opening up totally modern possibilities with different battery architecture.

For instance, one of these possibilities involves the anode, one of the two electrodes in the battery. Today’s batteries usually have an anode made from a mix of copper and graphite. With solid electrolytes, scientists claim they can make the battery work with an anode made from pure lithium. They claim the use of pure lithium anode can help to break the bottleneck of energy density. Increased energy density will allow planes and electric cars to travel greater distances before recharging.

Most solid electrolytes that scientists have developed so far are from ceramic materials. Although these solid electrolytes are very good at conducting ions, they cannot withstand the stress of repeated charging and discharging, as they are brittle. Scientists from the University of Maryland and Brown University were seeking an alternative to these solid electrolytes, and they started with cellulose nanofibrils found in wood.

They combined the polymer tubes they derived from wood with copper. This formed a solid ion conductor with conductivity very similar to that in ceramics, and much better than that from any other polymer ion conductor. The scientists claim this happens as the presence of copper creates space within the cellulose polymer chains allows the formation of ion superhighways, enabling lithium ions to travel with substantially high efficiency.

With the material being paper-thin and thereby highly flexible, scientists claim it will be able to tolerate the stresses of battery cycling without damage.

A Bending and Stretching Battery

All electrical and electronic equipment we use in our daily lives requires power to operate. Movable equipment depends on batteries for their mobility. We are used to various types of batteries, like dry cells, lead-acid batteries, rechargeable Ni-Cd and Li-Ion batteries, and so on. However, all the batteries in common use are rigid, non-flexing structures. That may be changing now, as some researchers have claimed to have created a battery that is flexible and stretchable like a snake but unlike a snake, totally safe for humans.

Researchers in Korea claim to have developed a new type of battery that is flexible and stretchable with smooth movements imitating the movements of scales on a snake’s body. However, they have issued assurances that the battery is totally safe for use. This flexible and stretchable battery has a range of applications in contoured devices like wearables and soft robotics.

Although individual scales on the body of a snake are rigid, they can fold together to offer protection against enemies and external forces. The structural characteristics of the scales allow them to move alongside other scales, offering flexibility and stretching capabilities to the snake’s body. At the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials, researchers from the Ministry of Science and ICT decided to replicate the reptilian characteristics in a mechanical meta structure.

Most conventional wearable devices have the battery in a tight formation with the frame. The new device has several small and rigid batteries in series and parallel connections within a scale-like structure. The researchers ensure the safety of the battery by optimizing its structure so that there is minimum deformation of each battery. They have even optimized the shape of each cell in the battery to offer the highest capacity per unit area.

The connective components and the shape of the battery cell hold the key to this unique device. Each cell is a small hexagonal, resembling the scale on a snake. The researchers have connected each cell with polymer and copper, and there is a hinge mechanism to allow folding and unfolding.

With an aim to mass production in the future, the researchers claim the batteries can be cut and folded with flexible electrodes, with Origami inspiring their manufacturing process.

Wearable devices for humans requiring soft and flexible energy storage can make the best use of these flexible batteries. Another application might be in rehabilitation medical devices for the sick and elderly requiring physical assistance. Soft robots can make use of these flexible batteries as power supply devices at disaster sites when conducting rescue missions. With their ability to freely change shape and move flexibly, these soft robots can move through blocked narrow spaces unhindered by flexible batteries.

Senior researcher, Dr. Bongkyun Jang co-led the research team has commented that mimicking the scales of a snake helped the researchers to develop a flexible battery, making it stretchable and safe to use. The researchers hope that in the future they can develop more soft energy storage devices while boosting their storage capacity. They also hope to develop multi-functional soft robots offering a combination of artificial muscle with actuation technology.

How Does An All Solid State Battery Work?

At the University of Texas at Austin, a 94-year old professor of engineering and his team continues to work on their invention—batteries. John Goodenough, one of the inventors of the most commonly used batteries — the lithium-ion battery. At present, Goodenough is working on an all solid state battery, a low-cost cell that offers a long life cycle, fast discharging and charging rates, and high energy density.

According to Professor Goodenough, one of the reasons for battery-driven cars not being widely adopted is the drawbacks associated with the commercially available lithium-ion batteries. Among the factors he includes are safety, cost, energy density, life cycle, and the rates of charging and discharging of the battery. Goodenough is of the view the all solid state battery will address all these problems.

As the journal, Energy & Environmental Science describes it, the non-combustible battery has an energy density of nearly three times that of lithium-ion batteries currently in use. As an electric vehicle derives its driving range from the energy density of the battery cell, a higher energy density helps to propel the vehicle more kilometers between charges. The number of discharging and charging cycles that the UT Austin battery allows is also greater, and that equates to batteries that are longer lasting. Where the typical charging time for batteries in use today is in hours, the researchers claim their battery attains full charge within minutes.

The difference between the two types of batteries lies in their electrolyte. At present, batteries we commonly use contain a liquid electrolyte for transporting ions between their anode and cathode. When charged very quickly, metal whiskers or dendrites form on the electrodes, and these can traverse through the liquid electrolyte to form a short circuit. The result can result in explosions and fires.

The new battery replaces the liquid electrolyte with a glass-based one, and normal electrodes with alkali-metal anodes. According to Goodenough and his senior research fellow, Maria Helena Braga, this prevents the creation of dendrites, mitigating the hazard of short circuits.

Additionally, in the glass electrolyte, there is no lithium. Rather, the researchers have used low-cost sodium instead. Sodium is cheaper, as it can be easily extracted from widely available seawater. According to Braga, that makes the new batteries much more environment friendly compared to those containing lithium-ions.

Conventional batteries cannot use alkali-metal anodes with lithium, sodium, or potassium. However, this technology allows the new batteries to attain their high energy densities and longer life cycles.

Plummeting temperatures freeze up the liquid electrolyte, preventing normal batteries from operating in low temperatures. This has been a major obstacle in practical use of batteries. However, the all-soli-state glass electrolyte has no such drawbacks, and can easily operate down to extremely cold temperatures of -20°C.

Braga began working on solid-state electrolytes while still in the University of Porto in Portugal. She has been collaborating with Professor Goodenough and Andrew J Murchinson, another researcher at UT Austin, since two years ago.
The glass electrolyte simplifies fabrication of the battery cell, as it allows them to plate the alkali metals and strip them on both the anode and the cathode sides, without creating dendrites.

Ohm Battery: A Battery That Refuses To Die

A dead battery in the car is a misfortune any driver would willingly avoid. When it is important to reach a destination, a car that does not start because its battery is dead gives a terrible feeling. Most people do not want to think about the car battery too much, preferring rather to have it just work every time they start the car. The smart battery from Ohm Laboratories, Silicon Valley, does just that and makes sure you do not have to replace your car battery almost ever.

In spite of modern advancements in car technology, the car battery is still the same huge, heavy electromechanical block that it has been from generations. Although it requires replacement sometimes, it does its job quite well, and does not give you much trouble, unless you have forgotten to switch off the car lights.

One of the major reasons for a dead battery, when it has not yet reached the end of its life cycle, is when you accidentally leave the car lights on making the battery drain itself overnight. The Ohm battery, being smart, can detect when the energy in the battery is reaching its critical level, and shuts itself off. Therefore, next morning, there is still some reserve power left over to allow you to start your car. While driving, the Ohm battery recharges just as any other battery will.

The self shut-off feature is useful while the battery is within its effective life cycle, but it cannot deal with the end of life situation. Therefore, Ohm Laboratories has also provided the battery with a replacement warning system. When the system starts beeping, you know that it is time for a replacement. According to Ohm, the beeper offers a more accurate and quicker warning as compared to the battery warning light on the car dashboard.

Instead of the typical car battery with a lead-acid construction, Ohm offers a unique combination battery consisting of LiFePO4 or lithium iron phosphate and super-capacitors. The super-capacitors deliver the quick burst of energy necessary for starting the car. The LiFePO4 part of the battery keeps the super-capacitors topped up when the engine is off. Therefore, the battery system is ready to go when you perk up the key for ignition.

According to Ohm, the combination of super-capacitors and LiFePO4 has a seven-year lifespan. This is nearly twice that compared to the average life of a lead-acid battery. Ohm claims its battery also performs better in cold weather.

There is another advantage to the Ohm battery. Compared to the lead-acid type, the Ohm battery is a lot lighter. A group size 35 lead acid battery can easily weigh as much as 16 Kg. Therefore, an Ohm battery, at 2.7 Kg, may seem light as a feather in comparison. Not only does that make your vehicle lighter, handling an Ohm battery is easier during replacements.

Ohm Laboratories have made the body of their battery the same size as that of a typical lead-acid battery, which makes it a drop-in replacement. The only downside to their design is the small 10Ah reserve capacity, because of the self shut-off feature. That does not allow running electrical equipment with the engine turned off.

What is a battery and how do they work?

CR2032 battery

CR2032 battery

Batteries power most of our mobile gadgets. These are small chemical powerhouses, which generate electricity by the chemical reaction within the battery housing. Although there are different types of batteries available, all batteries contain cells that have two electrodes and a chemical or an electrolyte between them. Various combinations of series and parallel connections of the electrodes make up a certain voltage rating for the battery. For ease of understanding, we will treat the battery as made up of a single cell.

One of the electrodes is the cathode or the positive (+) terminal and the other is an anode or the negative (-) terminal. Because of the reaction between the two electrodes and the electrolyte inside, there is a buildup of electrons at the anode and a corresponding lack of electrons at the cathode. Although this is an unstable condition, and the electrons want to distribute themselves evenly between the electrodes, they cannot do so because of the presence of the electrolyte and its reaction with the electrodes. An isolated battery soon reaches a chemical equilibrium, and no further reaction occurs.

If the electrons find an alternate path to travel from the anode to the cathode, they will redistribute themselves and the number of electrons will gradually reduce, forcing the chemical reaction to start over again and create more electrons. This process continues until an inert layer covers one or both the electrodes. Usually, the alternate path is through a metal wire, which is a good conductor of electricity and links the two electrodes of the battery through a load or the mobile gadget requiring power.

Electrons flowing from the anode of the battery through the external wire to the load and back to the battery cathode constitute an electric current. Since it is usual to consider the direction of current flow as opposite to that of electron flow, we commonly say current flows from the cathode of the battery through the load and back to the battery’s anode.

Since the physical size of the battery restricts the quantity of chemical inside it, the current produced by the battery is also limited. The battery specification, as mAH or AH, is the product of the current and the number of hours the battery can produce this current continuously. In general, once the chemical within the battery has depleted itself or inert material has covered up the electrodes, the battery becomes useless. However, it is possible to revive or recharge certain types of batteries. These are the rechargeable batteries.

Once a rechargeable battery depletes itself, you can charge it up again by sending a current through it in a direction reverse to what it normally produces when connected to a load. This reverses the chemical reaction inside, and the electrolyte and the electrodes return to their initial condition. You can repeat this discharging and recharging process many times, until the electrolyte exhausts itself totally, and no further revival is possible.

West Florida Components in the community making LED Throwies

West Florida Components was recently invited to participate in a science experiments fair held in conjunction with the USF Education Department.

Each business staffed a booth where elementary school aged kids along with their families could conduct science experiments. The community event was an opportunity for families to enjoy and see the benefits of science in a fun atmosphere. The West Florida Components station was one of about 18 stations at which participants could interact and have fun with science. The event met a significant need identified at the national, state and local levels which is to increase the scientific literacy of students as a way to improve the local, state and global competitive status of our communities and our country.

The staff from West Florida Components made LED Throwies with the fair attendees. Each family member was given an LED, a 3V battery, a magnet and some tape to put their LED Throwie together. Once the Throwies were assembled, they could toss their Throwie at a metal board to earn points. The families learned the science behind the Throwie and were given additional LEDS to take home to so they could rebuild their throwies and experiment further.

If you’d like the instructions to make the LED Throwies, you can visit our web site where we give full instructions with pictures.

Keeping up with the newest smartphones

Buy a smartphone in May, chances are that you can buy a bigger – better – upgraded – faster – prettier – cooler phone in June. It’s been that way for years with PCs and notebook computers so why should the smartphone market be any different?

I’m still waiting on my backordered HTC Incredible, but we already have 3 of them in service on our plan.They’ve quickly become the all-time favorite phone at West Florida Components. Powered by a 1GHz processor, these phones are fast! Other favorite features are the 8MP camera, the GPS and the large touch screen. We’re already watching and waiting to see what other gee-whiz features will be added on to this Android-based phone in V2 but we all agree the single biggest improvement they could make to this phone would be an improved battery. Then we won’t have to close down unused apps to preserve battery life.

One thing is for sure: by the time my backordered HTC Incredible finally arrives, the next ‘gotta-have-it’ phone will already be available. That gives me another 2 years to figure out which phone I just have to have next!