Digital electronics require power, and for most wearable Health Tech electronic devices, this power comes from batteries. Energy harvesting is making great strides, but batteries remain the most convenient and affordable power solution. Unfortunately, the traditional penlight rigid cylinder is not well suited to wearable devices; even small coin batteries can be intrusive. The ideal battery would be thin, flexible, and able to stand up to repeated bending without failure. Many printable battery products were in evidence at the IDTechEx conference last week, including Enfucell and Blue Spark Technologies. Another company in this field, Imprint Energy, gave a presentation about their new thin film battery technology: ZincPoly.
Unlike lithium ion batteries, the ZincPoly design does not rely on a liquid electrolyte and is solid state so there is no physical change. Unlike some zinc-based batteries, these are rechargeable. The company claims that the design is safer than many others, using stable, non-toxic materials that can survive cuts and other physical damage and still keep on working. They can fabricate batteries that are thinner than 0.25 mm thick. That’s less than the thickness of three sheets of copy paper. The batteries can be shaped to meet the design needs of a product, and can even be printed right on the same substrate as flexible electronics circuitry.
Self-powered devices using energy harvesting are coming, but even these will likely use batteries to store power for use when an energy source is not available. So we can expect the demand for thin, flexible, and robust battery technology to continue for the foreseeable future.