Batteries/Consumer/CES 2005 060525
From the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show...
CES- Baubles, Bangles and Batteries
by Shirley Georgi
With batteries powering much of the electronic baubles and bangles at CES (the Consumer electronics Show), glamour, glitz and gadgetry surrounded the celebratory theme to announce a record $113.5 billion of revenues for shipments in consumer electronics in 2004, an 11 percent gain over 2003. Highlighting the dazzling parade were plasma and liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), advertising products and promoting the latest high-definition (HD) screens in TVs for consumers to purchase. Astounding sales of Apple Computer’s iPod have elevated the volume of MP3 players to a shattering level of volumes just under 7 million, with revenues breaking the billion dollar barrier to a record of $1.2 billion for 2004. In addition, camera phones, digital cameras and portable computers are a being promoted as a “MUST” for every consumer.
TV - living in a flat world
Although Christopher Columbus verified that the world was round over 500 years ago, CEA (the Consumers’ Electronic Association) is stating that all of us are “Living in a Flat World.” In other words, “Thin is In!” Plasmas and LCDs are both found in this slim configuration. In fact, to dazzle the attendees, Samsung displayed the world’s largest plasma television, a 102-inch prototype. Last year, U.S. consumers spent $10.7 billion on high-tech digital televisions and that number is expected to increase to $19.2 billion this year, according to CEA. About 1/3 of the revenues come from flat panel shipments in 2004 and that figure should increase to 40 percent in 2005.
But in terms of dollars per unit, prices have dropped sharply. The prices of the new-tech TVs are almost half of what they were at the beginning 2003. For example Sean Wargo, director of industry analysis at CEA said that a 37-inch liquid- crystal display TV cost $7,000 in early 2003 and is now selling for $1,299. Mr. Wargo anticipates that prices for liquid-crystal displays will fall 40 percent this year. Although plasma TVs are more expensive, they have also dropped from $4,649 in 2003 to $2,485 this year.
But along with digital innovation in television, new ancillary portable devices are being created and that means more battery powered products. For example, Pavio has a portable digital theater which has 30 gigabytes of storage capability, TV/Video recorder, MP3 music player, voice recorder, Jpeg picture viewer and data storage/transfer using USB (Universal Serial Bus). All displays are on a bright 3.5” LCD screen and have a dock station and TV tuner. TV has become portable; TV can be watched anytime and anywhere. None of this would be possible, except for high tech battery management and power.
MP3 - Doubling the Volume in one year
With only four percent market penetration in 2000, the figure has grown to 13 percent penetration for 2004 and is expected to gain another two percent in 2005. But the greatest gain is in dollar sales. “MP3 portables exceeded headphone-CD sales for the first time in 2004, attracting still more newcomers into the market and prompting major portable audio suppliers here to step up their MP3 focus,” stated Joseph Palenchar. (“MP3 Tops Headphone CD In Sales, Features,” Twice, CEA, 01/06/05, p.7) From a figure of $424 million in sales in 2003, the dollars figure rose to $1,204 in 2004. Apple Computer has held the top spot with their iPOD (and their new mini). As of September 2004, Apple had shipped more than 6 million iPODs. (Data is from “Autosound Business Welcomes iPod, MP3 In Its 2005 Offerings” by Amy Gilroy, Twice, CEA Research, 01/06/05, p.12.) Other companies see a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, too. Competing with the iPOD mini is the Zen Micro which has five gigabytes of storage and comes with a removable battery. Sony, which still has the lead in selling the highest dollar amount of all portable audio electronics, has a network walkman, but MP3s must be reformatted to Sony’s unique music standard to play them; however, the special feature of this unit is the 30-hour long-lasting battery. Samsung has HDD music portables with picture viewing.
Digital cameras - a plethora of portable, picturesque panoramas
According to CEA research, digital camera shipments are expected to show figures for 2004 at 17.6 million units and $4.5 billion in revenues. But the view of the 2005 horizon shows that 20 million units will be shipped this year with a whopping $5 billion in revenue. Consumers are upgrading to one or two megapixel cameras while others are purchasing a unit for the first time, thus bringing the ownership rates to over the 50 percent peak to mainstream America.
New cameras --
• Kodak is adding Wi-Fi features to its EasyShare. IDC research states that Kodak will be within 10,000 units of displacing long-reigning Sony at the top of the category in the third quarter. This camera is definitely moving from “point and shoot” to “point and share.”
•BenQ is introducing their DC-E41 model which offers MP3 playback and a touch screen LCD which lets users write handwritten notes to an image.
• Casio is introducing its 6-megapixel QV-R62, has a 2-inch LCD screen with a start-up time of one second and a shutter release of .01 second. This camera’s battery can take 280 full-resolution photos on one charge.
• Olympus is announcing thee models in its PicBridge-enabled line; in its least expensive model (D-425) retailing at $149.95, the camera will have 4-megapixels with fixed focal-length and 10 shooting modes.
• Pentax’s new 5--megapixel OptoWP can be used three feet under water with out any additional underwater housings.
Cellular phones -
multifunctional portables for a wireless nation
Cellular phones are no longer a monofunctional unit. Today‘s phones come with megapixel digital cameras, MP3 players PDAs, Internet connections and embedded and downloadable games. As Theano Nikitias says in an article entitled “Wireless Nation!,” “The marriage of digital imaging with this market is changing the way your customers are communicating.” (“Wireless Nation,” Picture Business, North American Publishing Co., 12/04)
Perhaps the largest element for penetration in terms of new sales comes from camera-enabled phones. John Mulder, Product Manager for Sony Ericsson notes that the company’s research indicates that about 60% of the phones sold at the end of 2004 had VGA cameras. The prices have come down remarkably on these phones so consumers are buying them. Although the quality of the photos with VGA technology is not in the “high resolution” range, individuals like them for capturing the special moment, convenience and ease of hardcopying. However, photos having two- and three-megapixel range have been launched during the later part of 2004. But five megapixels phone are coming to the North American market. Samsung has already launched such a phone in Korea. How megapixel camera phones will impact the U.S. market is not yet known. However, John Mudler does not think they will not replace the more expensive digital cameras which will have far more capabilities in photography.
InfoTrends has predicted that there would be 150,000,000 camera phones sold in 2004 in the global market and that approximately 290 billion images would be captured. (“2004 Worldwide Camera Phone and Photo Messaging Forecast,” InfoTrends Research Group , 03/04). Capturing “the immediate or the moment” and sharing images seems to be very popular with the consumer, and if InfoTrends is correct in its research, 656 million camera phones will be purchased by consumers in 2008.
The cellular industry is reinventing itself with new design, color screens and cameras. According to Gartner research, unit growth was about 12.5 percent for 2004 and is expected to be about 10 percent for 2005. Jon Maron, director of marketing communications of LG Mobile Phones said, “Ten years from now, the mobile phone will be the centerpiece of the networked home, controlling entertainment, security, purchases and more.”
Computers - “On the Go!”
Although personal desktop computers had retail point-of-sales of $4,468,210,746.00, personal notebook computer totals topped that amount with retail point-of-sales of $5,062,172,196 (Data is provided at CES by NDP Group of Port Washington, N.Y. and includes sales from January 2004 through September 2004.) The top five brands, with 92.7 percent of the market were: Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, Compaq, Sony and Apple. Laptop, notebook and tablet computers are quickly becoming the mainstay of the consumer “On the Go!” About 70 percent of U.S. households now own personal computers.
The personal computer notebook is becoming a core for wireless innovation. Intel’s CEO, Craig Barrett, said in his keynote address to CES attendees, “The combination of entertainment, gaming and computing on all-in-one mobile devices with great battery life and sleek, lightweight designs will transform the notebook PC into an essential consumer lifestyle accessory.
With 2,400 exhibitors at the January 2005 Consumer Electronics Show, CES is celebrating a very profitable year in 2004. Many of the products are portables selling for under $1,000, prices the consumer finds acceptable to buy the latest electronic gadgets. “Digital Lifestyles” is a key underlying the offerings which include universal remote controls, hand-held computers, digital camcorders, MP3 players as well as cell phones with cameras, digital music, video, games, television and Internet connectivity.
While celebrating an 11 percent rise in sales of consumer electronics between 2003 and 1004, CEA is proud to announce that this if the first year the CE industry crossed over the $100 billion mark in its 100 + year history. And for 2005, CEA is predicting another 11 percent rise, with a sales figure projected to total $125.7 billion.
B for Batteries
Key words (mobility, portability and wireless) all encompass one major concept - battery power. Because the power of batteries is so vital , BD will devote a special article to batteries for consumer electronics so look in the next issue for Part II, Batteries, Baubles and Bangles at CES.
CES - Baubles, Bangles and Batteries -Part II
by Shirley Georgi
Consumers love their new wireless world. They want to be connected “24-7,” anytime and anywhere. Anxiety seems to reign when being “plugged-in” is not possible. Because of technological improvements and fashionable styling of new electronic “baubles and bangles” from cell phones and PDAs to digital cameras and MP3 players, U.S. households now operate 24 battery-driven devices. Less than 20 years ago, the average household had only seven, with each device having much less power and functionality.
It is the consumer’s desire for constant connectivity and personal portability in communications which combine to create the underlying theme at the Consumer Electronics Show. Although the gadgetry catches the eye of the consumer, it is the power source -the battery- which is at the heart of creating the functionality of the elaborate electronic equipment (i.e., advanced cell phones, laptop computers, digital cameras and surround sound MP3 players) and thus allows the consumer to enjoy a mobile and wireless world.
Because the battery is so vital to the industry, CEA (Consumer Electronic Association) keeps track of factory sales of batteries for consumer usage. Although rechargeables (secondary batteries) are utilized in many of consumer devices, volumes are not yet at a point where CEA tracks the data. But, in 2003, A.C. Neilson reported on sales of both primary and secondary batteries. Secondary battery sales totaled 11.6 million (approximately, 2 percent of the market) in contrast to 604 million primary cells (98 percent).
PRIMARY BATTERIES - A commodity with brand names
Primary batteries such as low-cost Carbon/zinc and the more expensive but longer-lasting Alkaline are primary power sources. These batteries can be tossed when they no longer function. By their very nature, they are considered a commodity and those distributors and vendors who sell them need very little technical knowledge about batteries. These batteries can be sold to retailers along with other products such as razors and toothbrushes.
Just as the Detroit auto world highlights its three automaker giants, the battery industry also has its Big Three in U.S. primary consumer heavyweights - Duracell, Energizer and Rayovac.
Price and volume become the key enhancements in making a sale. This was perhaps the great motivator for Gillette to team with P&G (Proctor & Gamble) to become the world’s largest consumer products enterprise. The global mass marketing of the new megacompany should be able to offer great price and volume packages to large retailers such as Wal-Mart.
But companies such as Fuji Novel Batteries, another vendor at CES, are looking for private label partnership opportunities. The North American market for disposable Alkaline batteries is approaching $4 billion annually. Private label batteries now comprise over 10% of the overall disposable Alkaline battery market which is one of the fastest growing segments within the private label market.
Vice-president Russ Bongiorno of Fuji Novel Batteries explains why he sees private labeling as a positive direction for its marketing of Alkaline batteries. “The private label battery category is exploding across the full spectrum of mass market retailers. With Fuji Novel, retailers have the opportunity to offer private label batteries as part of their individualized marketing strategy, enabling them to claim higher gross profit margins and profits at competitive retail price points as they gain trademark equity and reduce capital outlays.... As consumers’ brand loyalties migrate from product loyalty to destination loyalty, retailers like Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, and Best Buy are commanding stronger and stronger loyalty. With this migration comes an increased consumer willingness to choose among several different brands - creating significant inroads for well-positioned private label brands.” An essential ingredient of a successful private label program is in reassuring both the retailer and the consumer that the quality of the product will equal or exceed the national brand choice. In addition, Mr. Bongiorno notes that for the most popular Alkalines (the four-pack AA and AAA, one pack 9-Volt and two-pack C and D), prices for private labeled batteries can be offered from 20% to 30% off the retail for leading national brands. Vying for retail space between name and private labels brands is and will continue to be challenging in a hypercompetetive market.
Lithium - Longer lasting, more expensive but convenient
But as as a reader scanned the Day One edition of the CES Daily, Duracell was not promoting its Alkaline or Carbon/zinc line; the company placed the focus on their CP-1 primary lithium battery (lithium-manganese dioxide) and stressed the slim prismatic design to fit in any and all devices from MP3 players to digital cameras and even medical products. Its rated capacity of 2300 mAh allows the battery to last longer than any Alkaline. Prices vary for this lithium battery, but at CES, the suggested retail price was $9.99. Surveys in consumer research in North America show that approximately 50 percent of the people take less than 250 pictures a year with their digital cameras. (Mail Diary Panel, RPI, Q4/02) Duracell states that this battery should provide those users with up to a full year of power.
Although Energizer’s visual advertising at CES seemed to be on a smaller scale than Duracell’s, the company did highlight their e2 Lithium AA batteries. Energizer states that both their AA and AAA lithium cells are the only batteries of this description on the market. These batteries are said to have a service life seven times longer than Alkaline; this translates to 600 pictures when using a e2 compared to 80 pictures when using an Alkaline.
Energizer sees the increasing battery demand for high-drain devices and is more than doubling its battery manufacturing in St. Albans, Vermont.
The new kid (battery) on the block -
Panasonic’s Oxyride Extreme Power BatteryTM
The only known new battery unveiled at CES was Panasonic’s Oxyride Extreme PowerTM battery. The battery was designed for high drain devices with power exceeding the Alkaline and yet will sell for significantly less than the more powerful Lithium primary.
In an independent study, the new AA-size Oxyride cells lasted twice as long as Alkaline cells, thus doubling the amount of pictures and more rapid flash recovery time in digital cameras. In other high-drain digital and electronic devices such as MP3 players, the batteries averaged 1.5 times more power than Panasonic’s Alkaline cells.
Using a Canon PowerShot A400 digital camera, Rex Farrance of PCWorld, discussed a small study that was conduced by his group where Oxyride AA batteries were compared with Rayovac’s 1800-mAh Nickel-metal hydride rechargeables and with Duracell’s Ultra Alkalines. The results showed that the Oxyrides powered 290 shots, the Duracell Alkalines 131 and the Nickel-metal hydrides 300. (“New Batteries: Twice the Life:” by Rex Farrrance, PC World magazine, 04/2005)
The Oxyride Extreme Power battery was developed with a technology based on a combination of newly developed materials and an advanced manufacturing process. (See illustrations 1 and 2.) A suggested retail price for a 4-pack AA or AAA size is $3.99. These cell packs should be available in the U.S. in the spring of 2005.
SECONDARY BATTERIES -Rechargeables gaining momentum
Although primaries tout their volumes, rechargeables tout their ability to create optimal performance, cost advantage and environmental friendliness. Owners of digital cameras and other high drain devices are beginning to see the advantages of using rechargeables.
In terms of growth for rechargeables, Frost & Sullivan reported that the global rechargeable battery market for mobile IT and communication devices would grow from $2.17 billion in 2002 to $4.67 billion by 2009. (See www.powersupplies.frost.com) This is more than doubling revenues while individual price units have decreased.
Driving this secondary battery market are the rechargeables such as Nickel-metal hydride and Lithium-ion. Nickel-metal hydride AA and AAA batteries are the leaders in consumer sales for purchases of batteries for high-drain devices. In an article entitled “Batteries are limiting factor,” Wayne Thompson states that Nickel-metal hydride batteries are the fastest growing segment, with an estimated 20 percent growth rate. (Article in OregonLive.com, 10/29/04) However, Lithium-ion, with its new slim form factor, has higher energy density and reigns supreme in cell phones and PDAs and many computers and is also beginning to penetrate the digital camera market. R.T.S.’s Vice president of sales and marketing Mark Tahmin states that in conversation with their battery manufacturer, Hahnel Industries of Ireland, he was told that “there is a Hahnel Lithium-ion rechargeable battery for almost every popular digital camera and camcorder.” More bang (clicks for the consumer) for the buck ($ for each battery)!
One reason for the growth in rechargeable markets is related to the advances in charging devices. Today, Nickel-metal hydride batteries can be recharged in 15 to 20 minutes. Rechargeables can also hold a charge longer than most of their “one shot” Alkaline primary competitors.
Chargers for AA and AAA-sized cells are highly advertised at CES. Panasonic has a packaged charger which includes an LED screen that monitors the charging, has an alarm when charging is complete, and contains an adapter for a vehicle - all for a cent less than $45.00. GE./Sanyo, competing with Panasonic, states that their charger is the fastest on the market. Companies such as Targus, a suppliers of cameras, camcorders and accessories, were quoting prices of retail digital camera chargers between $19.99 and $29.99. However, for those who select to use the more expensive Lithium-ion battery, the universal charger for that chemistry sells for $59.99 at Targus.
Building market share
Capturing a greater share of the market may require some companies to ally with others. Energizer Battery Inc., a subsidiary of Energizer Holdings, Inc., has recently established (Jan. 2005) a multi-year strategic alliance with Mobility Electronics to jointly pursue the electronic device power adapter and battery markets. The two companies are jointly developing and marketing a family of new power adapter and battery products that combine and leverage each company’s leading patented-technology. At a Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 24th, 2005, Energizer’s President Ward Klein said, “We’re interested in bolt-on acquisitions...” Such efforts are worth pursing since CEA projects that combined sales of accessories and batteries will have a projected rise of 10.7 percent this year, thus forecasting a $8.32 billion market.
LEAD-ACID -Is it left out of the consumer electronic market?
No! OPTIMA BATTERIESR, manufactured by its parent company Johnson Controls, have been promoted at CES for over a decade. Because of the aftermarket for audio/visual and electronics systems being installed in many of today’s vehicles, there has been a great need for a high performance deep-cycle automotive battery that can not only provide starting power to the engine but can also provide long-lasting cycling capabilities for these accessories. Using their patented Spiralcell technology, the batteries are said to have up to two times longer life than traditional Lead-acid batteries and can withstand the high under-hood temperatures in vehicles with high performance engines. Even under abuse conditions such as driving in rough terrain, the Spiralcell Technology immobilizes the internal components of the battery, enabling the OPTIMA batteries to withstand incredible amounts of vibration. Specific batteries are manufactured for both domestic and import sports cars as well as light trucks and SUVs.
What’s next for portable power?
More and more features are requiring more and more power. How power can be conserved and what might be next on the horizon will be covered in Baubles, Bangles and Battteries - Part III. Are there magic answers or will consumers have to accept a “plateau” of portable capabilities? Read the next installment and make your own determination as what can be realistically be expected.
CES -Batteries, Baubles and Bangles -Part III
On and Beyond the Horizon for Improved Portable Power
by Shirley Georgi
Today’s portable power devices have an insatiable appetite. Yet, there have been few advancements in electrochemistry for wireless devices (portable computers, cell phones) which will enhance a battery chemistry to magically power a device for an infinite amount of time. But progress has been made.
Since its inception in the early 1990s, Lithium-ion has increased its energy density (a ratio of power to volume) threefold. However, it is the wish of the portable electronic industry that the number would be tenfold. So what are the hopes on the horizon and the actualities of today’s commercialized technology? The following are just some examples of recent announcements:
Lithium-ion - Sony has just unveiled a “hybrid Lithium-ion” battery which offers 30 percent more power than conventional offerings. Sony says its new rechargeable, the NP-FP71 battery, has quicker charging times and extended battery life at low temperatures. Key features of the new hybrid Lithium-ion battery include: a tin-based amorphous anode (instead of using the traditional graphite materials), a multi-stage composite cathode (comprised of atoms of cobalt, nickel and manganese) and enhanced low-temperature characteristics (retention of 95 percent of its capacity at 00 C.). The recharge time is only 10% longer and the new battery can be 90% charged in approximately 30 minutes. The battery will be initially offered in HandymanR camcorder products.
Lithium- sulfur Technology (Li-STM ) - Sion Power uses lithium combined with sulfur to attain its rechargeable performance. Battery energy is stored and released when sulfur and lithium atoms are combined or separated. The unique feature of this technology is its liquid cathode which provides exceptionally fast transfer of charge. Sion Power says its technology provides rechargeable cells with a gravimetric energy density of over 300Wh/kg. The company also states that its cells’ 2.1 Voltage output is ideal for the next generation of electronics expected to operate at 2 Volts or less. Commecialization is expected soon.
In the U.S., much of the research and studies on improvements in Lithium chemistries for portable power have been funded by the Department of Defense and other government agencies for military applications. The results of this work are reported biannually at the Power Sources Conference. At the 2004 conference, there were 157 presentations, about 40%, relating to the advancement of this chemistry. In this issue and following issues, Batteries Digest will present summaries of the work presented at the 41st Power Sources Conference, to extend the understanding of the state of Lithium-ion and other Lithium-based chemistries.
Nanotechnology Altair Nanotechnologies’ research into new electrode materials for Lithium-ion batteries will allow a tripling of battery life and a reduction of charging time from hours to minutes. “The nanomaterials Altair is developing are the next generation of electrode materials for Lithium-ion batteries and Altair’s research and product development is laying the groundwork for a new generation of ultra high power Lithium-ion batteries,” commented Dr. K,.L Abraham. He also added, “A key requirement is the ability to recharge the battery very quickly, i.e., in a few minutes. Altair has found a solution to fast charging with their nano-sized lithium titanium oxide.” Dr. Vassillis G. Keramidas provides more details in his comments by stating, “Altair’s nanomaterials, which have a virtually zero strain crystal lattice, eliminate the main cause for battery electrode material failure, which limits rechargeable battery life, increasing the number of recharge and discharge cycles from a few hundred to many thousand cycles.”
Note: The Consumers’ Products Association (CEA) says that nanotechnology has the potential to become one of the most disruptive technologies of tomorrow, not only for batteries but also for electronics. Seeing potential in nanotechnology, companies such as Intel and Motorola have created their own nano research projects. The U.S. government increased funding in 2004 for nanotechnology research to $3.7 billion over a four year period. The European Union and Japan are also investing heavily.
CONSERVATION OF POWER
Organic light emitting diodes (OLED) Although not an improvement in battery chemistry, the OLED technology could reduce power consumption and even provide brighter screens in portable devices. These low-power self-luminescent LEDs are painted into glass in three-colored layers. Dupont and Xerox have five to six year goals to use this technology with flexible plastic screens for portable devices.
Reducing the energy usage of the screen is critical. For instance, approximately 33 percent of the power for notebooks is consumed by the display.
Software Today, notebooks have software to reduce the screen’s brightness on computer notebooks to conserve battery life. This can be controlled with specific keystroke sequences, function keys or a software utility. The newest ThinkPad laptop software by IBM allows the user to speed up the processor or slow it down, brighten or dim the display, turn the cooling fan off or on, and adjust the speed of the hard drive - all to extend battery life.
Both hardware and software can help to increase power efficiency and yet continue to promote miniaturization with aggressive integration of functions. Designers are creating chips by integrating power management and user interface functions, thus maximizing battery life.
In an article, “Longer Battery Life Through Integrated Power Management” in the November 12, 2004 issue of EDN, Nicholas Cravotta states, “PMUs (Power Management Units) generally offer one to three types of programmable regulators - low dropout (LDO), buck, and boost -which convert battery Voltage to a stable Voltage for a particular component.” However, each is only a piece meal solution and what is needed is a top down holistic design approach. As Dennis Sieminsky states in his report on the Portable Power Conference of September 12th, 2004, a full array of options are needed. “These include items such as: processors designed specifically for optimal energy usage, dynamic Voltage and frequency management, reducing the number of Voltages in the system to a minimum, integrated synchronous buck regulators, lowest Voltage devices available, shutting down circuits not being used, smart batteries with accurate fuel gauging and lower power displays.” (Report in Advanced Battery Technology, December 2004, p. 16)
One example of a new chip is the MC13890, a monolithic power management and user interface IC by Freescale Wireless Technology. This chip is said to combine key power management functions and a full audio system suitable for mid-to-high-tier applications. Freescale was an exhibitor at CES.
Another new chip, Sipix Corporations’ SP6656 IC, is a 400 mA synchronous buck regular with logic controlled output Voltage selection. The bit programmable output Voltage of the chip allows it to dynamically adjust to the changing power requirements of today’s ASICs, DSPs and microprocessors used in portable electronic equipment. In essence, the operation of the SP6656 is optimized for applications using either Lithium-ion or three Alkaline/Nickel-cadmium or Nickel-metal hydride batteries as a power source. The chip’s control loop, 20 uA light load quiescent current and integrated 0.3 Ohm sychronous switches provide efficiency across a wide range of output currents, increasing battery life. As the input battery supply decreases towards its output Voltage, the SP6656 uses a special control loop to seamlessly transition into 100% duty-cycle mode with only 80uA quiescent current, further extending useful battery life. The SP6656 can also be shutdown using the ENABLE pin, reducing power drawing to nanoAmps and enabling longer standby times in portable electronics.
Linear Technology prolongs battery life with its new 100mA-to1A charger for new 4.375 float-Voltage Lithium-ion batteries. After a battery is fully charged, the LTC4061-4.4 enters a standby mode. Because frequent recharge cycles decrease battery capacity and shorten battery life, the SmartStart feature starts recharging the battery only if the battery Voltage drops below 4.375 Volts. This features reduces unnecessary charge cycles, prolonging battery life. At any point in the charge cycle, this chip can be shut down, limiting battery-drain current to less than 2uA.
System Technology ByuckHae, a battery chipset group in South Korea, says it has developed the world’s first cellular phone-use portable smart battery pack that extends battery life, therefore talk time, by 80 percent. Mobile Save MPB 4000 is a large capacity Lithium-ion cell pack with power capacity of 4,600 mAh. This Smart Battery displays how much power remains in the battery pack with an LED power gauge. The company’s own integrated circuit microchip MPB 4000 identifies its chemistry and tells the battery charger which algorithm to apply.
Thus, power management chips and their associated software can coordinate the fine tuning deep sleep, light napping and wake-up sequences and in addition, can provide the help needed to manage the “supply perturbations due to current surges flowing through the source impedance of the battery,” as noted by Mr. Crovotta. By reducing the mountainous start- up surges into gentle elevated needs for power, the battery does not have to undergo strenuous dips and therefore, the cut-off time to minimum battery level is lengthened which results in more effective and improved charge cycles for the lifetime of the battery. As Ken Dulaney of the Gartner Group says, “Companies that make circuits to control batteries try to close the gap by wringing more energy out of the cells. (“Balance of power,” Electronic Business, 03/01/05)
In an article entitled “What’s Next? -Preparing for the Disruptive Technologies of Tomorrow” (Consumer Electronics Vision, 01 and 02/05, p. 10), Ron Schneiderman lists micro fuel cells as Number 3 on the list of ten. In writing about the topic he said, “Most micro fuel cells (MFCs) are in the prototype stage and may not be widely available until 2006, but it should be worth the wait.” He notes that MTI Micro Fuel Cells expects to be able to boost the standby time for cell phones from three to 15 days.
The following is a brief status report on micro fuel cells.
U.S. based companies
Millennium Cell demonstrated an IBM ThinkPad running on its prototype fuel cell attached across the laptop at Intel’s Developer Forum early in 2005. The cartridge, similar in size to a cassette tape, contains the fuel that is fed through a thin tube to the laptop. The sodium borohydride solution in the cartridge passes through a fuel pump and moves into a catalyst chamber which then triggers a reaction. This reaction causes hydrogen to be released from the liquid fuel. The hydrogen then mixes with oxygen already in the laptop. The reaction of hydrogen and oxygen create electricity. Dow Chemical is collaborating with the company to help develop and commercialize this technology for the consumer (and military) market. Prime time to market may be another two years.
Medis Technologies, Ltd. is placing its current emphasis on a fuel cell that can charge batteries in mobile phones. Its Power Pack charger has one fuel cell which is fueled with a mixture of borohydride, alcohol, water and alkaly. Production is planned for the second half of this year. A consumer using this disposable charger could provide his/her cell phone with three to five full recharges. Costs for the charger are estimated at $10 to $20 each. General Dynamics is currently testing the Power Packs in PDAs.
Some other U.S.-based companies working on small fuel cells are MTI Microfuel Cells, Motorala Labs and Neah Power Systems.
Japan and Korea
The Far East’s electronic giants ( i.e., Toshiba, NEC, Casio, Sony, Hitachi, Canon and Samsung ) have well-funded research projects in fuel cell development. These are all companies with high visibility at CES.
Toshiba, Hitachi and NEC are researching methanol-based fuel cells which could power laptops for possibly ten hours. This March (2005), Toshiba demonstrated a prototype fuel cell powered notebook At CeBIT in Germany.
DMFCs (Direct Methanol Fuel Cells) are perhaps the most common design for powering portables. The fuel is a mix of methanol and water.
In the past six months, Toshiba Corp. has developed a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) based pump for fuel cells, a move seen as an important step in miniaturizing the devices for portable systems. Toshiba’s prototype device uses MEMS technology to pump fuel and air into a passive fuel cell stack for a portable phone recharger.
Smart Fuel Cell in Germany says it has a prototype and anticipates launching its first micro fuel cell, the C25, later in 2005. This German company has been able to significantly reduce the cost of fuel cells by using half the platinum, a costly and needed material in the catalyst of the cells.
Is it “ready- set and go” for micro fuel cells?
In 2003, The US Fuel Cell Council’s 2003 market study, “Fuel Cells for Portable Power,” forecasted that 19 million fuel cell units could be shipped in 2006, representing $500 million in annual sales. Although Medis is ready to take orders for its disposable fuel cells, most companies are showing prototypes but are extending time periods for launching product until 2007. Toshiba’s Masa Okumura, the company’s director of worldwide product planning, said it would be early in 2008 before the fuel cell and its methanol pump for its notebooks would be commercially available. Both NEC and Casio Computer are talking about having a commercial product on the market in 2007.
The technical community in the fuel cell arena are fine tuning micro fuel cells for improved and smaller form factors, enhancing reliability in all environments and temperatures, and performing safety testing. They are also developing standards for a fuel mix and cartridges while working with organizations such as the Federal Aviation Administration to get approvals for fuel cell cartridges on aircraft, especially with reference to methanol.
However, even when all of these challenges are met, the final test for acceptance will be with the consumer. Since fuel cells typically have poor power density and thus do not provide spikes of power, a best solution for many portable devices may be a hybrid power source - a battery and a fuel cell and/or possibly a supercapacitor and a fuel cell. Can the cost of such a hybrid be low enough for consumer acceptance? How will fuel cell chargers be accepted in comparison to the battery chargers available today? In general, will fuel cells be cost competitive and offer enough extra power for the consumer to give them definite preference over a battery-powered device?
THE JURY IS OUT!
The battery industry is to be commended for its track record in tweaking up battery chemistry and working with new form factors and materials to create better batteries for the consumer. “Keeping a lid on power is a constant battle against the increased functionality everybody wants,” said analyst Ken Kulany of the Gartner Group. Although consumers have an insatiable appetite for more and more power, portable units are not starving due to lack of power and certainly do provide connectivity for those on-the-go. But, the cheering crowd continues to demand, “We want more!”
Micro fuel cells may or may not be the winner. However, the industry has come a long way in the past five years from the time they talked about research and development in the late ‘90s to today, where working prototypes are being demonstrated.
And, in the meantime, while waiting for the next electrochemical device which has the answer to the verdict for portable power, Compact Power Systems is touting its CellBoost TM for cell phones, as one answer. With multiple full page ads at CES, the company says its matchbook-sized battery/charger can deliver an average of 60 minutes of talk time /60 hours of standby time to the average handset. For $6 or $7 , the unit can revive a dead battery without access to an electrical outlet.
So, what enhancements in power sources will be available for the consumers’ portable electronics next year? Tune in to CES-Las Vegas, January 2006.