Foldable Lithium-ion Batteries Are The Next Frontier
image credit: Man charging his phone using a J.Flex leather belt
- Jan 21, 2020 4:29 pm GMT
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Foldable and rechargeable Li-ion batteries might have sounded like the stuff of science fiction up until a couple of years ago but they are fast becoming a reality now. Jenax, a South Korean company, has developed ultra-thin, flexible, and rechargeable Li-ion batteries. The battery is called J.Flex and protected by 100 patents. It uses a new form of polymer electrolyte known as gel polymer and a “combination of materials...and the know-how developed over the years.”
Its thickness can be as thin as 0.5 millimeters and size can be as small as 20 millimeters. The operating voltage is between 3 and 4.25 volts. Battery capacity varies from 10 milliampere-hours to 5 ampere-hours and it takes an hour to charge.
Reducing the form factor and making the batteries flexible makes them convenient, easy-to-use, and, in some instances, fashionable. The idea, according to EJ Shin - head of strategic planning at Jenax, is to put batteries into locations “where they couldn’t be before.”
Some of these locations are sensor-lined football helmets, power banks and medical devices. For example, they can work as wearable power banks for patients who must be attached to medical devices at all times. Here’s a Youtube link that provides a couple of use cases:
In an interview, Shin identified home care and industrial applications as two of the most promising markets for J.Flex. It can also be used for energy harvesting as a supplement for solar panel farms. The company is already working with B2B companies in a variety of sectors - consumer electronics, logistics, medical, health, and other sectors. Professor Nicholas Kotov from University of Michigan says small batteries could also free up space on large devices, such as drones, for development of other functionalities and features.
Jenax is not the only company developing Lithium-ion batteries. Researchers at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have developed a highly-flexible, high-energy Textile Lithium battery for wearable electronics.
How might the development of these batteries affect the grid? While it is still early days, it is not hard to imagine a future where such batteries populate an ecosystem of devices and wearables. As their efficiency improves, the amount of load on the grid placed by IoT devices on the grid will also decrease.