Today, lithium-ion battery technology is the mainstay for several portable applications. However, any existing battery technology is under attack from many angles. Fuel cell makers such as MTI MicroFuel Cells Inc., makers of the Mobion fuel cell, want to replace batteries.
“Battery life is a key issue with handheld GPS devices, especially as manufacturers add advanced energy-hungry features to new models, such as larger full-color screens,” says Peng Lim, president and CEO of MTI. MTI developed a Mobion-powered GPS prototype for users such as hikers and campers, travelers, boaters, pilots and other sports enthusiasts to show them how to eliminate the expense, bulk and environmental unfriendliness of conventional batteries. A recent partnership with NeoSolar, a Korean manufacturer of portable digital devices and energy products, may bring fuel cell technology to other portable digital devices including ultra-mobile portable computers.
In addition to extended battery life, reliability and safe disposal are also important to users. AlwaysReady has developed the Smart NanoBattery that requires manual activation for the liquid electrolyte to contact the battery's electrodes to avoid reduced shelf-life.
“The ability to separate the liquid electrolyte from the solid electrodes can improve the reliability of a broad range of portable electronic devices and opens new markets for us,” says Fred Allen, CEO, AlwaysReady.
An internal breakable barrier prevents the chemicals from mixing and keeps the battery inactive, eliminating self-discharge and leakage. In addition, safe, environmentally responsible end-of-life disposal has been engineered into the battery's design.
Energy harvesting, or scavenging as it is frequently called, is gaining momentum, especially for remote measurements where changing batteries is difficult. Using the vibration present in structures, Perpetuum's PMG17 microgenerator can power wireless sensor nodes.
In addition to ac/dc supplies, this section addresses some of the newest battery trends beyond traditional lithium-ion technology and explores the growing capabilities for energy harvesting.