Battery Power - September/October 2012 - (Page 13)

Juicing Up the Battery Cutting Edge Research Delivers Battery Enhancements Anu Cherian, Senior Industry Analyst Frost & Sullivan The battery market is currently entrenched with several chemistries. Five decades ago, the lead acid battery was considered the most versatile, with manufacturers using it for nearly all applications that needed energy storage. The advantages of longstanding nickel metal hydride (NiMH) were later realized, as it was replacing a very niche segment of the lead acid battery’s applications. Alongside the NiMH was the nickel cadmium (NiCd), which was gradually slowing down as its counterpart gained momentum due to its lighter weight and versatility of use. However, the pace of development of the consumer electronics markets were rapidly changing and even the NiMH battery could not satisfy power requirements of new applications. It was then that the years of research on lithium batteries paid off. It became the appropriate fit for new electronic applications. The main requirements were governed by a much smaller form factor and the lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery delivered just as much, if not more, power in a smaller architecture. The well known characteristics of the lead acid battery are high energy density, low cost, easy availability and versatility of operation. However, the primary reason for the significant growth of the lead acid battery was the ubiquity of its component materials. Easy availability and market competition spurred this technology forward. From an end-user standpoint, lead acid was well known in the every corner of the world. The term “battery” was synchronous with the lead acid chemistry. Hence, its success was attributed to its early entry into the market and its low cost that made it easy for the common person to purchase and use it. in a number of applications has driven the market to maturity and intense price competition has made it a commodity product. There are certain niche end user segments that always are ahead of the game and a commodity product is just not their forte. For example, the military is always a first responder to any cutting edge technology. The Army has invested in the development of in-house technology that is proprietary to their use. The military is a key end user segment that always provides the initial impetus towards the launch and commercialization of their technology. Soldiers already carry immense weight on their backs for basic necessities including food, first aid, as well as communication equipment, weapons and ammunition. Communication equipment require batteries as well as back-up batteries, all of which need to recharge quickly. These factors have triggered the need for an increase in lighter weight systems and more energy density of the batteries themselves. Army Scientists and Their Cutting Edge Work Scientists are looking for technology that needs to be easily available in addition to satisfying the power needs of the applications in play. For example, in radios used by soldiers, the time duration of the battery charge, recharge time, as well as the level of degradation over extensive use are important factors that require significant evaluation prior to use. With all of this in mind, the military has funded millions of dollars toward battery research. They have focused on intensifying the voltage per cell, thereby increasing the overall energy density of the system. Furthermore, additional research is being conducted on the use of ubiquitous materials that enable the soldier to carry the battery easily in rough terrain. Ongoing research into this area began almost five years ago and is estimated to be about a year away from production and mass deployment to soldiers. In everyday life, batteries may not seem to be particularly heavy or obtrusive. But to provide a better picture of a soldier’s load, battery weight constitutes nearly 20 percent of the weight carried by a soldier. This is an average of 70 batteries per soldier, or about 50 to 70 pounds. Even a reduction of five pounds would be a huge step, although scientists are proposing reductions by 20 pounds per soldier. R&D has not been able to increase the energy density dramatically. Current progress is only at a rate of about 1 percent per year. Scientists are therefore trying to understand ways of tweaking the energy density of cells by increasing the voltage inside a single cell. Understanding micro level characteristics of the cell, its functioning and means to increase voltage are expected to create the necessary rectification to technology that can push it further into the market. While taking an internal look at battery technologies, the voltage per cell has been at a nominal 4 volts (V) in the Li-Ion battery chemistry. Army scientists are now recognizing means to increase the single cell voltage. September/October 2012 • Battery Power Battery Markets The energy storage and battery chemistry markets are currently worth billions of dollars. With the advent of Li-Ion, there has been a complementary revolution with mobile power technology in cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Mobile, on-the-go power has driven several generations of technology driven concepts. Beginning with Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad, competition has picked up and the number of competitors in this field has driven the application markets into billions of dollars. However, as is the case every year, the smallest and lightest weight device is just not sufficient enough, resulting in a push for another device that is smaller and lighter than the previous generation. A Key End User Market Increase in the performance of battery chemistries is essential for its application base to expand. The use of lead acid 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Battery Power - September/October 2012

PRBA Battery Proposals Adopted By UN Transport Sub-Committee
The Use of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Uninterruptible Power Supplies
Monitor Your Battery Cells for Superior Reliability
Juicing Up the Battery: Cutting Edge Research Delivers Battery Enhancements
PEM Fuel Cell Systems – Reliable Backup Power Source for Remote or Extended Run Power Outages
Why Your Next Renewable System Should be Built Around Energy Storage
ICs & Semiconductors
Charging, Testing & Monitoring
Power Supplies
Industry News
Calendar of Events

Battery Power - September/October 2012