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New Battery Could Drive Semi-active RFID Growth

A venture-backed startup called Infinite Power Solutions is developing a cutting edge battery chemistry that it believes could be incorporated into semi-active RFID tags, thereby widening the potential applications for the technology.
Jul 20, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 20, 2007—A venture-backed startup called Infinite Power Solutions is developing a cutting edge battery chemistry that it believes could be incorporated into semi-active RFID tags, thereby widening the potential applications for the technology. RFID Update spoke with Tim Bradow, vice president of technical marketing and business development, about the IPS technology and what potential impact it could have on RFID.

Called LiTE*STAR, IPS' battery technology offers a handful of distinguishing characteristics. First, at 0.13mm, it is extremely thin. "Because it consumes such little volume," explained Bradow, "it enables the placement of a battery in applications where before it was impossible. Our battery is so thin you don't even know the battery is there." LiTE*STAR can also be recharged many more times than competing battery technologies. "We offer virtually unlimited recharge cycles," said Bradow. "A user would more than likely never wear out one of our batteries." Furthermore, the battery leaks far less power than is typical, meaning it can be stored, unused for a long time without draining its power. Compare that to, say, a cell phone, whose battery is depleted in a relatively short time even if it is not being used. Lastly, LiTE*STAR can endure extreme temperatures which would cause other batteries to suffer.

Taken together, these characteristics make LiTE*STAR a great enabler of semi-active RFID. (Semi-active RFID, also called battery-assisted RFID, uses battery power to strengthen the signal of tags.) "Semi-active RFID is an extremely large potential market, and we are trying to enable that market." Bradow envisions the battery technology allowing semi-active RFID tags to be used in applications or environments which are currently impossible. "Take industrial processing, for example," he said. "Imagine you needed to run a device or component that passes through some very high-temperature process. You may need to identify or transmit data from that device, but the high temperatures preclude using semi-active tags currently on the market."

Another example could be tagging remote objects which might not be brought into proximity of a power source for long periods of time. LiTE*STAR's energy retention would enable applications which today are prohibited by battery life limitations.

When asked if IPS has actually received interest from RFID vendors, Bradow replied, "Absolutely." But currently they are under nondisclosure agreements, so he was unable to provide names.

LiTE*STAR is not yet in production. IPS is in the process of building the manufacturing facility, and Bradow expects the technology will be in production by early next year. "As we speak, there are production teams building clean rooms in Littleton, Colorado," Bradow said, referring to the company's location.

When asked about the possible pitfalls of a battery technology that appears to promise so much, Bradow pointed to the manufacturing. "The beauty of this technology is that it sells itself. The challenge is to mass produce it." He acknowledged the high risk inherent to building what would be the world's first thin film battery manufacturing plant. But he is confident that since its founding in 2001, the company has assembled the right combination of management, expertise, intellectual property, and venture capital ($35 million from six firms) to succeed.
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