Washington, D.C. – In early 2008, Littleton, Colo.’s Infinite Power Solutions plans to begin high-volume production of batteries not much bigger than postage stamps. Like players before kickoff, execs at Infinite, now 25 employees strong, are in full chest-pounding mode.
“Our flexible, rechargeable, thin-film batteries will boldly go where no batteries have gone before,” says Timothy Bradow, Infinite’s vice president for marketing and business development.
Key to the boldness: the defense and intelligence market. Bradow and Chief Executive Raymond Johnson believe certain federal customers will pay $50 to $100 per battery. They and their investors have maneuvered to get Infinite up and running with a surge of public sector demand.
So what’s a thin-film battery? Batteries, or devices that convert chemical energy to electrical energy, are essentially three items: a positive electrode, a negative electrode and an electrolyte that separates the two. In the lithium-ion batteries that power cellphones and laptops, the electrolyte is a liquid or a polymer gel.
Thin-film batteries, by contrast, use a glassy, inorganic solid for an electrolyte. The technology was pioneered in the 1970s at Stanford University, developed subsequently by the Department of Energy at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory, then released for commercial use starting in the 1990s.