Finding the Best Battery for Your Device

An industry expert explains the impact new battery technologies are having on emerging medtech applications, and how to match the right battery to your device.

When it comes to exciting new developments in medtech, you might not need to look much further than battery technologies. The demand for battery technologies may have always been high, but the diversity in the type of batteries on the market continues to expand as innovative new developments require more than just your standard double A.

Whether it’s a flexible battery for a wearable device, or a biocompatible battery that can power new implantable devices, emerging technologies require much more than just power from their batteries. The importance of finding the right battery technology for your device can literally make the difference between success and failure — so much so that battery solutions have begun to shape the design, performance, and reliability of a device.

So what kind of battery does your design require? That’s the question Michael Xie will be addressing at next month’s MD&M East 2018 conference in New York, where he’ll be giving a talk on the topic of “How to Get the Best Battery Solution for Your Products.”

Michael Xie is the CEO and founder of PHD Energy Inc., a company that specializes in providing the best in battery services and solutions. Xie got his Ph.D. on battery technology before spending three years working with John Goodenough, known as the “father of the Lithium ion battery”, on advanced Li-ion battery material research and development.

Xie founded PHD Energy Inc. in an effort to provide companies and device developers with the most suitable battery products and solutions on the market. He’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and innovative new startups to provide battery solutions in both the industrial and medical technology fields.

Given his vast experience on all things battery, we thought we’d sit down with Xie ahead of his MD&M East talk to chat about the role batteries play in the design of new medtech devices, and maybe score a few tips for device makers on how to match the ideal battery technology with your new device.

MD+DI: For starters, can you talk a little about the importance of batteries in the field medical device technologies? How important are they to the industry?

Xie: Battery technologies have a big impact on the products they power in terms of running time, safety, reliability, as well as working temperature range, lightness, etc. With new electronics technology emerging, batteries are getting more and more important to medical devices and products. Same as consumer electronics, medical devices and products are getting more complicated, having more functions, and consuming more power. On the other hand, the consumers and users want the products to be small, light as possible, and to last longer while also becoming more reliable and safer. To achieve all of these goals, these products will require a better battery.

MD+DI: What role do batteries play when it comes to the design concept of medical device technologies? Is it becoming easier to incorporate battery technology into next-gen devices, or more difficult?

Xie: The role for batteries in the design of medical devices is getting stronger and stronger, mainly due to the new technologies emerging and the requirements from the end consumers. When you ask for smaller, lighter, but more powerful, long-lasting products, then you need a better battery design for these devices.

At the same time, with battery technology evolving — roughly 8% to 10% every year for Lithium-ion batteries — we also have the manufacturing flexibility and capability improving every year. We can now make ultra-thin (0.5mm) shaped batteries, as well as batteries with cutting edge performance like fast charging, wide temperature ranges etc. With these developments, it is becoming much easier to incorporate new battery technologies into next-gen devices. You just need to work with a trustworthy and reliable partner on battery solutions and products.

MD+DI: What are some of the state-of-the-art battery technologies that you’re keeping an eye on in the world of medtech? What are some novels ways that these technologies could be used?

Xie: It is really challenging for the market to adapt a new battery technology. There is a huge gap between the research and design in a lab, and the commercially mass production of the technology. One of a few state-of-the-art battery technologies that has our attention is the All Solid-State Lithium battery. This battery is assumed to be safe, no risk of leakage, and flexible. This should finally enable some new products and technologies in the medical field.

MD+DI: With battery technologies constantly evolving, how do you go about determining which battery chemistry is a good fit for a design or product? What tips would you give developers facing this question?

Xie: Well, some bad news for new battery technologies is that it is extremely difficult to make a new battery technology that is ready for the mass market. It’s been over 150 years since the first generation of lead-acid batteries, and there have been only a few new battery chemistries since that first development 150 years ago. With that in mind, I don’t think new developers necessarily need to worry about missing any new emerging battery technology.

What they need to do, is come to understand better the current battery chemistries available in the industry, and partner with someone who really knows the industry and can provide them with the best technical support, as well as guidance on battery design, technology, and products. There will be a lot of metrics and features that determine a battery chemistry for one given design. We have a whitepaper and a design guideline that developers can consult for these questions.

MD+DI: In a similar vein, what key metrics do you consider when determining battery design, and how do you ultimately qualify a specific battery solution?

Xie: The key metrics vary a lot for different applications. Some may ask for extreme low temperature, while others ask for a fast charge or a challenging shape and dimension. It’s important to first understand the capability and limitation for a given battery chemistry. And again, you need to make sure the partner or battery factory you are working with is trustworthy and understands what you need, and that they value quality and reliability. To qualify a battery solution, you need to audit the factory, test the battery, and certify its quality.

MD+DI: How do you see battery technologies evolving over the course of the next 5-10 years, and where do you think they’ll have the biggest impact in medtech (e.g. wearable, implantable devices, etc.)?

Xie: 5-10 years out is too long to predict, but there are some potentially possible technologies that might be able to come true from the theory and lab. Within 5 years, it is very unlikely to have some new rechargeable battery chemistry that will come along and challenge the Lithium ion battery — but I think the 8-10% improving of battery technologies could have a big impact on wearable and portable medical devices.

MD+DI: Finally, in a similar vein, what role do you think battery technologies will play in the development of new medical device technologies in the near future? Do you think developing next-gen battery technologies will be just as transformative as the new devices they power?

Xie: I would say the role of battery technologies in medical devices will likely not change dramatically within the next 5 years or so. It will be hard to predict further out than that. I will admit I’m more of a pessimist when it comes to new battery technologies, as there are just too many factors at play to bring one new technology into the market, especially when you consider the big picture of the whole history of battery technologies — but we shall see.

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