Panasonic’s Sept. 29th press release features the company’s bendable lithium ion battery device. Still in its development stage, the flexible battery stands to transform the wearable tech industry. With wearable consumer technology products like the Myo Armband, DigitSole Smartshoe 001, and the PoloTech Shirt all set to hit the market, this is a welcomed innovation. Panasonic’s flexible lithium ion battery has already passed twist, bend and other deformation tests. The result: it holds its charge even when contorted.
Unlike Panasonic’s bendable battery, the regular lithium ion battery degrades when compromised and unfortunately, becomes highly volatile. According to a recent LiveScience article on lithium batteries, faulty batteries are highly flammable especially when they’ve been overcharged. This is all due to lithium ions collecting in one spot and being deposited as metallic lithium. “If this happens, the heat from the overcharging can cause oxygen bubbles to form, which are highly reactive with metallic lithium,” according to LiveScience. If these elements are combined: explosion time. The fact that wearable technology is so close to the human body is cause for concern. There’s no mystery as to the anatomic location of wearables such as the Myo Armband, Digitsole’s Smartshoe, or the PoloTech Shirt.
Three main product features were highlighted in Panasonic’s press release: First and foremost, the bendable lithium ion battery can maintain its characteristic with repeated bending and twisting; secondly, the batteries ability to withstand bending and twisting contributes to retaining its charge for longer periods of time; and finally, the battery can be used reliably for devices attached to the human body because of excellent safety.
The Myo Armband, for example, is a gesture-controlled armband that reads electrical activities in your muscles and motion in your arm. The user is able to control technology with hand gestures. Open an app by spreading your fingers. From controlling PowerPoint presentations (hands-free) to surgeons using gestures to navigate through patient x-rays, the wearable is being used in a variety of settings and is a perfect candidate for Panasonic’s bendable lithium ion battery.
Another wearable that would benefit from Panasonic’s flex-battery is the PoloTech Shirt from Ralph Lauren. Armed with OMsignal technology, the smart shirt contains Bluetooth data reading sensors that measure heart rate, breathing, and calories burned as you workout. The sensors are woven into the fabric of the shirt (across the chest); so as one can imagine, a bendable power source is a must-have especially if the shirt is being used during high-intensity physical activity. I’m sure we can all agree that an exploding shirt mid cardio-kickboxing is bad for business.
Panasonic is using some rather innovative technology to develop its flexible lithium ion battery. It has created a laminated outer body and internal structure – making it difficult for leaking or overheating. According to Panasonic’s press release, “the new casing and internal wiring makes the battery safer and more reliable for tech devices.”
In a recent LiveScience article written by Kacey Dreamer, the bendable battery had some promising test results and at the same time, there was room for further development. For example, the bendable battery, according to Panasonic, “is just 0.02 inches (0.55 millimeters) thick and was able to withstand being bent so that the curve of the battery has a radius of 25 mm, and being twisted up to 25 degrees during testing.” With that being said, the battery capacity is rather limited. It can hold a charge between 17.5 mAh (for its smallest size) and 60 mAh (largest size), according to Panasonic. For comparison purposes: The iPhone 7 has a 1,960 mAh battery.
With sample shipments scheduled to start at the end of October, selected users will be lucky enough to test the battery’s potential. Judging from the initial test results, Panasonic’s battery is exponentially safer than regular lithium ion batteries but it lacks capacity. Mass production, according to Panasonic, will require further product development. But make no mistake – the bendable lithium ion battery is a much-needed device that will find its place in many of the consumer tech wearables on the verge of hitting the market.