Supercapacitors can take market share from lithium batteries, says IDTechEx

October 15, 2012 // By Julien Happich
The consumer electronics industry has changed drastically in the past few years. Portable devices are increasingly becoming multifunctional, and not only phones which currently work for many purposes (e.g. making calls, sending SMS, internet navigation, email, video playing) but cameras and other devices as well.

For example, we can now see smart watches that play music and can help you manage your smartphone, or android powered cameras with applications and Wi-Fi internet connectivity. At the same time, smartphones are taking over more functions; such as the one that becomes a semi-professional camera when adding interchangeable lenses.

This trend in power demand terms is translated into frequent peak power demands from lithium and other types of batteries. The same applies for wireless sensors, which require power pulses for performing their functions. In Figure 1 below we show the power demand profile for different operation modes of three different smartphones.

 

 

Figure 1. Different power profiles for different smartphone uses

The energy storage space for smart and portable electronic devices

The energy storage space is composed of primary (non-rechargeable) and secondary (rechargeable) batteries. Here, we define "smart and portable" as those devices that will take a key role in the future of data and communications, and are small enough to be carried by one person or installed in a small device.

Lithium batteries have become the dominant technology in the secondary battery space for small devices such as laptops, mobile phones, tablet PCs and cameras. This is because of their superior energy density characteristics. The consumer electronics industry has pushed their production to billions and consequently, through economies of scale, has optimized its supply chain and reduced their price. At the same time, secondary batteries are increasingly substituting primary batteries in many applications.

Supercapacitors fit well into the emerging energy storage landscape

As in any other battery, energy and power will play against each other; increasing one will lead to the loss of the other. Accordingly, the capacity of lithium batteries (energy content) is reduced if we extract the energy quickly. This means that if we require high power from the battery we will extract less total energy than if we would require low power

The