Transportable energy storage, using electrochemical technology, is barely two hundred years' old. Benjamin Franklin described the process, but the first working battery was developed fifty years later by Alessandro Volta in 1799. The lead-acid rechargeable battery was then designed in 1859 by Gaston Plante. This technology made electrified transport possible, and is still used in most internal combustion engines today.
The development of battery technology over the last decade has been rapid. Now the humble battery, an essential component of electrification, may well be one of the most enabling technologies of the next century.
Ultra-thin batteries are already in use in the medical sector and are moving into retail, banking and consumer products as they decrease in cost.
The thinnest battery currently in existence is 625 microns, which is 0.024” in thickness. These batteries are flexible, the smallest are 1.5V, and these can still deliver 12 milliamp per hour (mAh) of energy.
As a comparison, a standard AAA battery delivers 850 mAh and are also 1.5 volts. So the ultra-thin batteries are just as powerful as the larger AAAs, but storage capacity of the thin batteries is much lower.
Made of carbon, zinc and manganese oxide, these teeny batteries are generally covered in a polymer laminate which makes them more durable. The smallest battery is made out of carbon, zinc and manganese oxide. Another option uses ceramic technology enclosing lithium ions with a very high level of conductivity.
While many brands have just one charge, some of even the smaller batteries are now rechargeable. Currently, these ultra-thin batteries are used a lot in the medical patches; powering wearable injectors and measurement devices. They can also be used in transit tickets and smart tags and labels, and are starting to be used in speakers, phones and gift cards.
Future uses being touted included small solar-powered items (such as a watch) which will use solar to re-charge the battery for wearable energy storage.
Using larger thin, light batteries in the future in larger products, even cars and airplanes, to store energy, as a distinct possibility. While the devices are planned for smaller and smaller items, the idea of light energy storage can be extrapolated.
The size and weight of batteries for vehicles means that they cannot easily be used in flight. We discussed flying cars last month and noted that weight of energy storage was one of the barriers to the technology. With a set of modular, ultra-thin, and ultra-light recharging batteries however, a vehicle could be made much mightier, making it easier to get off the ground with less power.