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2 May 2017

Solid State Batteries Aim to Top Li-ion

 Solid-State Batteries Harvest

 Batteries could be transformed from our slowest growing technology to our fastest growing advanced technology if Ilika Technologies Ltd. (University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton U.K.) can realize its dream of self-powered systems-on-chip (SoCs).

By eliminating the liquid cores of every other battery technology under the sun — especially the flammable lithium ion (Li-ion) — into the solid-state micron-thin-layers of an SoC, each chip in an electronic circuit could become self-powered, simplifying printed circuit boards and eliminating the big-iron power supplies required today.

Ilika’s solid-state batteries now come in the full range of temperatures (from -40 degrees Celsius up to +150 C.), making them accessible to automotive, industrial IoT and other rugged environments. ARM and Ilika have teamed to build self-powered system-on-chip beacons which are half way between a wearable and an industrial IoT in order to accurately monitor livestock.

“Our solid-state batteries can now be adapted to all sizes and operating environments,” Graeme Purdy, Ilika CEO, told EE Times in advance of the company’s extended temperature range announcement. “For instance, Toyota — one of our earliest partners — has funded our solid-state battery development efforts for eight years and came up with series of solutions they are now scaling up to produce big batteries for electric automobiles. But they have also screened our materials and helped scale them down to chip size. By 2025, we predict they be in production.”

 

All the same ingredients are used ‐ anode, cathode, electrolyte ‐ but stacked on a solid-state chip to cut costs and lengthen lifetime of the powered device.
(Source: Ilika)

The transformation from flammable Li-ion to inflammable solid-state batteries is not going to happen overnight. In fact, the first mass-produced end-user products using them is predicted by Purdy to appear near the end of the decade. The first products to hit the market will likely use free standing solid-state batteries.

Nevertheless, once all the bugs have been worked out, rechargeable solid-state batteries using both solar and vibrational energy harvesting, plus charge-once-and-forget for the 10-year lifetime of the solid-state battery powered product, could become the rule rather than the exception. (Cymbet Corp. in Elk River, Minn., is currently offering development kits for its 250 square millimeter solid-state batteries, which may hit the market even earlier).

Rechargeable modules (right) can have backside integrated photovoltaic cells (middle, upright) constantly recharging solid-state batteries (left, upright) for indefinite lifetimes in the field, here a temperature sensor.
(Source: Ilika)

“Our solid-state batteries are based on lithium ion technology, but with solid-state safety, plus twice the energy density. Also, users can charge them in six-times faster than liquid Li-ion ‐ 15 minutes to recharge instead of 1-1/2 hours,” Purdy told EE Times.

“Regarding our relationship with Toyota, we jointly own the patents for the bulk batteries suitable for electric vehicles. But Ilika wholly owns the patents for small batteries,” Purdy said. “Out patents covert three aspects: the combination of materials compared to conventional lithium ion, secondly the process (evaporation) is patented — instead of powder to ink-based printing on foil we heat to evaporate at 400 degrees Celcius — and thirdly we have patented the architecture and our way to combining the different ingredients.”

A complete Internet of Things (IoT) device can be integrated with its solid-state battery, here on a daughter-board, or could even be integrated on the same system-on-chip (SoC) as runs a wearable with a 10 year lifetime.
(Source: Ilika)

The key, however, to solid-state batteries, according to Purdy, is the use of a silicon anode which eliminates the need for a liquid electrolyte, is easier to encapsulate against the environment, and even if partially exposed, has less of a reaction to air and moisture than liquid electrolyte Li-Ion batteries.

Purdy claims to already have licenses in-hand for industrial IoT makers, using the extended temperature range IP, and from consumer product makers for the normal temperature range IP. In fact, Ilika’s business model is never to compete with its licensees, but rather to prove-the-concept of its technology, offer design services and example applications, such as its Stereax M250 battery in a Perpetual Beacon Demonstration.

Wafers full of solid-state batteries make their manufacturing scalable and cheaper yet when ordered in high volumes.
(Source: Ilika)

Ilika has also qualified several foundries for its customers to build their chips using its licensed IP, including the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). However, the company claims that any foundry which routinely deals with compound semiconductors, such as GaAs, SiC, GaN or OLEDS, can also manufacture its solid-state batteries. For instance, Sharp Laboratories of Europe is developing an autonomous energy harvesting power source using Ilika IP.

— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times

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