2012-10-15  CODICO News  

INFINITE POWER SOLUTIONS, INC. (IPS) - a U.S. clean-technology company - is a global leader in manufacturing solid-state, rechargeable, thin-film micro-energy storage devices for embedded applications.

IPS’ innovative THINERGY® Micro-Energy Cells (MECs) are revolutionary energy storage solutions that serve a variety of vertical markets. These paper-thin MECs are flexible and provide unrivaled cycle life and power performance. Able to operate in temperatures ranging from -40ºC to +85ºC, these ultra-thin MECs offer extremely low self discharge rates, low cell resistance and high power-making THINERGY the industry leading micro-energy storage offering. THINERGY Micro-Energy Cells are ideally suited for use with all forms of ambient energy harvesting techniques for recharging - such as solar, thermal, RF, magnetic and vibration energy, delivering a safe, reusable and clean power source for today's electronic devices and systems.

Harvesting Ambient Energy

For an energy storage device of reasonable size to be permanent (at least for all practical purposes) it must be rechargeable. And when a device is inaccessible or cannot be connected to a suitable source of AC or DC power, the power needed to replenish. That source must be harvested from available ambient energy. The ability to accept harvested ambient energy effectively and efficiently is, therefore, of paramount importance in selecting a power storage source.

Micro-Energy Cells are able to accept microwatts of recharge energy, and then store the harvested energy with only negligible leakage. Consider, for example, an industrial application that harvests ambient vibrational energy at a mere 100 ?W/cm2. For the MEC, this is a sufficient amount of energy to create a maintenance-free, cost-effective design for sensors that must transmit regular radio frequency signals, such as sensor data from heavy equipment or moving vehicles.

Micro Energy Cells enjoy many advantages, especially in those applications where MECs need to operate unattended over extended lifetimes.

These advantages include:
- Rapid charge and recharge acceptance at current below 1µA
- More then 100.000 recharge cycles
- A high rate of discharge, whether in pulses or for continuous draw
- Peak power delivery suffers from no pulse width limitations and requires no external capacitors for most micro power applications
- The low internal resistance enables the MEC to deliver the relatively high current needed to transmit radio frequency signal in small wireless system
- Useful voltage maintains a flat profile, even at high current
- Stackable to achieve higher energy and current
- Available in deeply-embeddable form factors (generally very thin and flexible) that facilitate smaller, lighter maintenance-free design

These characteristics make MECs suitable for a wide range of applications.

Here are just a few examples:
- Low power wireless sensors
- Smart Meters
- Smart Home / Smart Building controls
- Small handheld remotes
- Powered cards with displays, radios and biometrics (fingerprint sensors)
- Security and temperature sensors
- Real-time locating systems (RTLS)
- Memory and real-time clock (RTC) backup power
- Theft prevention tags
- Remote patient monitoring
- Machinery / Equipment monitoring

Although the initial costs of an MEC (including the energy harvesting and power management components) can be higher then some traditional energy storage devices, MECs offer many advantages over devices which use traditional battery:
- to reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Battery change is often very expensive (e.g. labor cost)
- when traditional battery solutions are too big or heavy
- to eliminate disposable battery waste
- to increase lifetime and reliability of product
- when the application is a deeply embedded or implemented device that requires costly or dangerous battery replacement procedures

When we talk about TCO, it is fundamentally important to understand that TCO is best considered from the perspective of the end user. When evaluating available solutions, users divide TCO into two components: the capital expenditure (CapEx) to purchase the product; and the ongoing operational expenditures (OpEx). All too often, design engineers believe that minimizing CapEx results in a lower TCO, or that prospective customers will compare alternatives based mostly or exclusively on their purchase price. While this may be true for some consumers, businesses invariably place much more emphasis on the ongoing OpEx.

Consider this interesting fact: It now costs more to power a data server over its useful life (typically three years) than it does to acquire one. Server vendors understand this phenomenon, and have invested in making their system far more efficient to reduce OpEx. End users who purchase these servers realize that paying a higher initial cost for a more efficient server will provide significant savings over the server’s useful life.

Note the lack of any operational expenditure for the Micro-Energy Cell, giving products powered by an MEC a distinct competitive advantage in total cost of ownership. With a useful life of 15 or more years, the MEC requires no maintenance or replacement in the huge majority of applications. For this reason, the MEC can be deeply embedded and/or permanently sealed in devices (even in those that must operate in harsh and hot environments) because they never need to be replaced. Thus, MEC-powered devices can be deployed in inaccessible locations, including within other systems.

Comparing MEC to other power storage technologies

In addition to containing no organic liquid electrolytes MECs contain no caustic chemicals or heavy metals, and none are used in the manufacturing process either. Most conventional battery technologies, by contrast, have liquid-impregnated separator materials, where the liquid serves as the electrolyte. Some of the chemicals used can be quite toxic, precluding their use in some applications, and requiring mitigating measures in others. Over time, the acids and the bases used can attack the other materials inside the battery, causing dissolution of various contaminants into the electrolyte, resulting in accelerated degradation, or the formation of internal short circuits. High heat accelerates this degradation significantly, often limiting batteries with liquid electrolyte to applications operating at less than 60°C. Another potential problem is the initial voltage drop caused by the passivation layer that builds up on some battery cells. The depth of discharge on certain battery chemistries can also affect performance. And some batteries (e.g. NiCad) suffer from “memory effects” where the useable capacity becomes limited by shallow cycling, or from capacity degradation effects like sulfation (e.g. lead acid), which occurs during long standing periods and is accelerated by higher temperatures. MECs suffer from none of these limitations and can operate continuously up to 85°C.

Finally, owing to its extraordinarily low self-discharge current (< 2 nA at 25°C), an MEC can efficiently accept and store very small amounts of recharge current from a variety of ambient energy sources and store it for decades. In challenging applications, this enables extremely low power energy harvesting sources to become viable power supplies for autonomous wireless nodes.

By direct comparison between battery coin cell, Supercap and EMCs we see clear advantages of EMCs over other energy storage devices as shown in table 1.


In many applications, the need to replace the power source even once can drive up a system’s total cost of ownership. The end users of such systems understand this very well. When making purchasing decisions they consider both the capital expenditure and the ongoing operational expenditures, knowing that the latter usually eclipses the former.

An MEC-powered solution requires no maintenance and will continue to operate for decades with little or no degradation in performance, resulting in the lowest total cost of ownership for the end user.


Product - Selection
Table 1

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