Cymbet: Solid State Batteries with Energy Harvesting
In a recent article we wrote about Sakti3 and their ambitions to make cheap, solid-state lithium batteries a reality. Solid-state batteries contain no electrolyte, and therefore do not incur the additional packaging costs or safety concerns that are inherent to traditional lithium batteries. Solid-state batteries actually exist today, but the problem is that they are very expensive to produce therefore severely limiting potential applications. While Sakti continues to work on bringing their technology to market, one other well-funded startup is first to market with a high-density solid-state battery that is now being produced in high volume for the electronics industry.
Founded in 2000, Minnesota based Cymbet Corporation has taken in just shy of $70 million in funding from investors such as Dow Chemical, Texas Instruments, and Intel. Cymbet uses a traditional semiconductor fabrication process to produce a rechargeable battery called the EnerChip which contains no liquids, gels, or harmful chemicals. With two U.S. based manufacturing plants, Cymbet has become the world’s largest volume manufacturer of solid-state batteries.
While Cymbet appears to be the clear leader in the solid-state battery space, the technology seems prohibitively expensive to use on anything but the smallest of applications. The EnerChip solid-state battery is 10x smaller than non-rechargeable coin cell batteries and lasts 3x as long with an estimated life of 10 years. Cymbet produces large Enerchip wafers which are purchased by customers who then dice the wafer into individual batteries as seen below:
With Cymbet making extremely small rechargeable batteries, it’s easy to see how they can enable the “Internet of Things (IoT)” which will require reliable power sources for billions of connected devices. What’s even more exciting is a technology Cymbet has refined called “Energy Harvesting” through which the battery power of an EnerChip can last much longer than a traditional non-rechargeable battery. Energy harvesting methods in use today rely upon traditional rechargeable batteries which often wear out after a few hundred cycles or super caps which will self discharge rapidly, as much as 20% per day. Here’s an example of an EnerChip energy harvesting device that uses solar power:
Using energy harvested from ambient light, motion, or pressure, you can recharge the EnerChip as you go along which extends the lifetime of the battery significantly. Unlike traditional batteries or super caps, the EnerChip can tolerate in excess of 5000 cycles and has a minimal self-discharge of less than 3% per month. The system can even support a battery that is completely dead and then bring it back to life with harvested energy. It’s easy to see how this device could be suitable for all kinds of IoT applications.
In looking at the Cymbet website, we see that they’ve gone totally quiet since December of 2014 and not issued a single press release. Could they be preparing for an IPO? We recently saw Adesto announce their intentions to IPO citing their memory as an “IoT enabler”. It’s easy to see Cymbet carving out a similar value proposition for IoT should they look to go public.
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