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Can Batteries Really Fuel Innovation?

By EJ Shin

Technology advancements seem to be coming at us fast and furiously. Every time you turn around, another company is introducing a breakthrough product with claims of far-reaching implications on how we live and work. But how often do consumers really experience disruptive innovation, like the kind that smartphones and cloud computing have had on our lives?  

Instead of astounding people, many new products that hit the market today are merely upgraded versions of their predecessor – perhaps offering smaller footprints with faster processors, more attractive packaging, or add-on features. These upgrades tend to underwhelm customers, offering no compelling reason to justify their accompanying price hikes.

Jenax logoWhat consumers want is disruptive technology that truly enhances their lives, whether at work, at home or at play. And that’s exactly what product manufacturers want to deliver. So what’s holding them back?

The Limits of Traditional Batteries

The challenge doesn’t lie in envisioning exciting new offerings. Vendors are great at that. Rather, when it comes to consumer-focused, electronics-based products, the culprit is often  conventional, rigid and thick batteries that limit what can be designed around them.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Jenax 1Advances in flexible and thin batteries can spark a whole new level of product differentiation. Even though such batteries have been available now for a few years, they are still a foreign concept to many product designers  accustomed to conventional off-the-shelf energy storage that is fixed in rigidity and shape. It’s hard for some people to believe that batteries can fold and flex while maintaining their performance and safety. As a result, they design products around rigid battery parameters.   

The Promise of Flexibility

Fortunately, flexible battery technology is available today, even for high-volume production.

While the allure of flexible battery technology is strong, we find ourselves having to reassure manufacturers that flexible batteries are every bit as dependable as their rigid progenitors. Our testing shows that performance-integrity in flexible batteries is strong. They can be flexed, bent and even rolled in any direction without deteriorating performance. For instance, we tested a flexible battery by bending it 10,000 times to prove that it has essentially the same capacity as a non-bent battery. This flexibility gives designers and engineers a new level of freedom in hardware design: Manufacturers can now place batteries in spaces not possible or practical before. Take smartwatches, for instance. Instead of locating batteries in only the head case, engineers can embed a flexible, thin battery in the strap band to increase accessible energy or lengthen battery life.   

Jenax 2As market demand grows for wearables and hearables, smart apparel and other personal battery-powered products, consumers want more natural-feeling experiences. Unlike fixed off-the-shelf energy solutions offered in a limited range of form factors and capacities, flexible batteries can support customization by size, thickness and capacity, enabling development of products that are smaller, lighter and more comfortable.

Rigid batteries are problematic on a whole other level, and that’s safety. Electrolyte advancements ensure flexible batteries are safer. The latest gel-polymer electrolyte is safer than liquid electrolyte because it does not contain liquid that would leak if the battery is pierced or penetrated – yet it still delivers the same high level of ionic conductivity. This is a great advantage for manufacturers of wearables in medical devices, sports equipment and fabrics, industrial applications, and consumer electronics. Knowing that their devices contain safer components not only brings peace of mind to manufacturers and consumers but also increases both adoption and usage rates.  

Staying competitive in any technology-driven market requires a steady stream of innovation. To rise above the pack, companies must fearlessly embrace advancements that will differentiate them in the marketplace. Your choice of battery is critical to your hardware design – especially if consumers will be in direct contact with the battery. The performance and enhanced safety inherent in next-generation flexible batteries can free you to create disruptive products that deliver a compelling user experience.   

To learn more about flexible batteries, visit Jenax.

EJ Shin delivered an engaging presentation at 2019FLEX Japan (May 22-23, 2019, in Shinagawa, Tokyo), where she discussed Jenax’s flexible and customizable rechargeable battery, a technology that allows batteries to integrate seamlessly into a new generation of medical devices.

FLEX Japan is a hosted by FlexTech and MEMS & Sensors Industry Group, SEMI technology communities.

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Jenax EJ ShinEJ Shin is Global Director at Jenax Inc., a company that pioneered the next-generation flexible, thin battery that can be bent and rolled in any direction. She has been with Jenax since the company initiated its battery development. EJ helps device and wearable companies leverage Jenax’s customized battery solution for their innovative products. Earlier, she held communications consulting positions at Fleishman Hillard and G20 Summit in Korea. EJ holds an MBA from Yonsei University, South Korea, and a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University, U.S.

Topics: sensors , IoT , Internet of Things , wearables , consumer electronics , power , FlexTech , Jenax , thin film , flexible batteries , smart devices , medical , battery life , smartwatches , smart apparel , batteries , flexible wearable , hearables , connected device , electrolyte , sporting goods , fabrics , industrial applications , thin battery

 

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