Thin film batteries set for solid (state) growth
Thin film batteries set for solid (state) growth
The TempTraq patch from Cooper-Atkins, powered by a thin film battery.

Thin film batteries set for solid (state) growth

Smaller, lighter and with no risk of leakages or explosions, thin film batteries based on solid state components are increasingly important to low-power IoT devices. 

Thin film batteries power a whole bunch of ‘things’ in the IoT, including smart cards, wireless microsensors, RFID tags, toys and medical patches.

These batteries are typically built by depositing the components of the battery as thin films on a substrate – hence the name.

Because these components take the form of solid state materials, there’s none of the risk of leakages or explosions sometimes associated with other kinds of batteries. Think, for example, of batteries in the Samsung 7 smartphone, subject to a massive recall last year.

Read more: Brunel scientists develop flexible, wearable 3D-printed battery

Growing demand

Thin film batteries are popular with smart device manufacturers because they’re small and light, which makes them ideal for low-power applications – and demand for them is growing accordingly, according to a report published this week by Grand View Research.

Analysts at the firm reckon that the global thin film battery market will reach $1.72 billion by 2025, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent from 2017 onwards, due in part to rapid adoption of wearables, a prime candidate for this kind of technology.

Sales of thin film batteries for wearables alone, for example, are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 29 percent between 2017 and 2025. Other key sectors include smart cards and healthcare devices, which will collectively account for 29% of the market by 2025.

“Increasing demand for thin film batteries to power compact devices, coupled with improved safety, is a major driving factor for industry growth in wearables and medical applications,” say Grand View’s analysts.

As with many other battery technologies, miniaturization is a key theme here: most manufacturers are working on sub 1.5-volt thin film batteries for various applications. So is extending battery life. Key manufacturers in this market include Blue Spark Technologies, BrightVolt, Enfucell, ST Microelectronics, Cymbet, Imprint Energy, Ilika and LG Chem.

Read more: Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

Plenty of interest

There’s a great deal of interest around this area and many new kinds of thin film, solid state batteries look set to emerge. In October 2015, for example, UK-based consumer appliance company Dyson spent $90 million on acquiring Sakti3, a US-based start-up specializing in battery technology.

Sakti3 founder Anne Marie Sastry, now working at Dyson, has pioneered the development of Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries that replace liquid electrolytes with thin films of solid-state material, to improve the energy density of a battery by two to three times.

Given James Dyson’s publicly stated ambitions in the clean automobile space, it’s likely that having a battery technology heavy-hitter like Sastry on board will be a major boost.

Our Battery and Energy Storage Show event is fast approaching. This will be held at The Slate at Warwick University campus on 28 & 29 November 2017. We hope you’ll join us there to look at this important subject in more depth – but in the meantime, here are some recent examples of our coverage in this area.