Thin film power cell or thin-film battery production is largely an offshoot of the same technology, metalurgy/chemistry and techniques used in PV/solar production. While it is correct to say that this is a high growth market….that is also just a little vague. While medical and commodity usage of thin film power cells is on the increase…..its also the tip of the potential iceberg.
There are simple power cells that are printed that are not really inovative in technology but are cheap and produce just enough power to operate a specific circuit for a limited amount of time. These have been around for ages. Thin and flexible are not an automatic requirment for printed power devices…..but these characteristics can have much more powerful benefits within state of the art technology. Thin-film printed batteries are not just about saving weight and space,.
The real movement in printed power cells is about improved band-gaps between electrochemically reactive metallic layers. Just like in PV systems the smaller and mroe precise the band-gap between metallic layers the more efficent and less “lossy” the electron transfer will be (very crudley put).
Simply stated….thin-film printing methods in battery production can result in power factors and efficiencies that are orders of magnitude higher than those found in relatively normal printed or non-printed battery production….while using far less metal content, less weight and less size.
It can allow for instance….lithium cell power efficiencies with much cheaper metal chemistry (like Zinc-air and nickle hydride) …that normally would produce less power density while using even more metals…when using normal battery technology.
Aside from the increased band-gap performance of thin-film technology….the lighter thinner cells can fit in places where normal batteries cannot.
Imagine if you will, a hybrid or electric car:
Instead of the normal 300-400 lb lithium based battery pack behind the back seat….using instead a 100 lb 1/2″ thick cell with twice the power and half the recycle/recharge time…..that is thin enough to be pressed into a laminate. Instead of taking up a huge space, it can become a replaceable floor plate or structural member in the car. It will be able to radiate recharge heat to the outside and in itself replaces 200-300 lbs of battery and 45-60 lbs of steel in the floor.
Its all about the new metallic chemistries…..and also about the ability to deposit the required metals in ever thinner and more precise layers. Screen print can and will do much of this. Inkjet and flexographic will also have a lot of work in this field.
Affordable,structural thin-film batteries will also be the lynch-pin of “real” acceptance of residential and small business solar use on this continent. Without an affordable, space conserving method of storing solar energy for off-peak use, solar will always be consigned to generating power that can only be sold or credited to a utility system that is willing to buy it and able to use it.
That formula is fast becoming obsolete because of the glut of windpower (in certain areas)…that produce power 24/7…even in off-peak times. This causes many power companies to cycle down larger base-load gas/coal plants (often when not scheduled and often with very expensive results).
Discussion in Specialty Graphic Imaging Association on linkedin