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NEC Develops Paper-Thin Rechargeable Cell (January 19, 2006)

The new battery is flexible. (Courtesy of NEC Corporation. Unauthorized use not permitted.)
Information technology and network solutions giant NEC sparked a wave of excitement in the info-communications industry recently when it announced the development of an ultra-thin, flexible, rechargeable battery. Since the December announcement, the product has been showcased at several industry trade shows. A mere 0.3 mm thick, this wafer-thin battery holds great promise for wearable computers and other applications.

Thousands of Transmissions on a Single Charge
This new battery is one application of organic radical battery technology, which uses a type of plastic known as organic radical polymer, first proposed by NEC in 2000. An organic radical polymer assumes an electrolyte-permeated gel state, which makes the battery remarkably pliant, and with electrodes developed using thin-film technology, the battery is a paper-thin 0.3 mm.

The organic radical polymer has a fast electrochemical reaction that enables electrolytic ions to move freely through the material and reduces charge times to less than 30 seconds. Since it does not use any of the heavy metals common in conventional rechargeable batteries - such as lead and cadmium - this rechargeable battery is also very environmentally friendly. When used with radio frequency IC tags (small radio transmitter tags attached to products and other objects for the purposes of identification and tracking), the battery provides enough power from one charge to send out tens of thousands of transmissions.

These batteries can also be installed directly onto IC cards to power wireless communications that enable the cards to regularly transmit information from remote locations. One possible application could be for commuter passes. A commuter could leave a battery-powered, IC-equipped commuter pass in a pocket or wallet and pass through turnstiles of a station without touching the card.

Wearable PCs
With the increasing miniaturization of computers in recent years, the number of mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), portable game systems, portable music systems, and other devices that people carry on a regular basis - in addition to laptop computers - is increasing. In the not-to-distant future, computers may be worn like clothing and accessories, becoming as ubiquitous as glasses and wristwatches. This type of computer has been dubbed the wearable PC.

As computers have become smaller and lighter, providing power to run these devices has become a major issue. An ultra-thin flexible battery can be molded to the fine contours of the human body, which is a major breakthrough for wearable computers. The day is not far off when it will be possible to receive information anytime, anywhere - even while one is strolling casually down the street, hands in pockets. This battery has applications in intelligent paper and other thin electronic devices as well, and is expected to spur development in this field.

In a statement, NEC declared its determination to continue its research to improve battery energy density, extend the length of time each charge lasts, shorten charging time, and provide higher quality, more reliable rechargeable batteries.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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