May 14, 2009 As the rate of miniaturization of portable technology increases, so too does the need for smaller and smaller batteries to power them. Current devices, such as hearing aids and wireless sensor networks, that draw small amounts of power over an extended period of time have generally relied on coin-cell batteries to keep them running. Now ultra-thin bendable battery technology from Front-Edge Technology (FET), delivering between 10 and 20 times more power, may provide the advances the electronics industry needs.

The flexibility of these next-gen batteries – what FET label NanoEnergy – makes them ideal for portable and extremely small devices. The NanoEnergy batteries can also be manufactured in different shapes and in sizes that can be as thin as 200 microns, which is thinner than a sheet of paper.

The thin-film technology used to construct the batteries relies on making the battery’s solid electrolyte from lithium phosphorus oxynitride (LiPON), which not only gives the battery its flexibility, but also increases its storage capacity.

The FET solid-state batteries also boast a longer life cycle, offering more than 1,000 cycles at 50 percent discharge, and can be more quickly charged. Their fast current charge means batteries can be charged to 80 percent of rated capacity within 15 minutes, or 70 percent capacity in just 2 minutes. FET claims the batteries also offer high stability, with a low self-discharge of less than 15 percent a year, short-circuit prevention for greater safety and a lower environmental impact than existing battery technologies.

According to FET, these characteristics make them ideally suited to “micro power” devices such as high-end "one-time-password" smartcards, battery-assisted RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, wireless sensor networks, real-time clock (RTC) back-up batteries, and multiple medical applications, including hearing aids, automatic insulin pumps and wearable health monitoring systems.

FET has spent the past 10 years developing the NanoEnergy battery technology and has been selling them commercially in small volumes for the past three years.

The company has now teamed up with semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics to bring the technology to new markets and applications. If the batteries live up to the hype, and the proliferation of smaller and smaller portable battery powered devices continues, they’re likely to have no trouble finding either a market or applications.

Darren Quick