LONDON, Dec. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Flexible, thin, stretchable, rollable, bendable, foldable, micro- and large-area batteries for applications in wearable devices, healthcare and cosmetics, Internet of Things and People, portable electronics, RFID, smart packaging and more
The battery market has suddenly become alive again in recent years. On the one hand, batteries are assuming new form factors, becoming ultra-thin, flexible, rollable, stretchable, etc. On the other hand, manufacturers are scrambling to offer large batteries aimed at addressing the large-sized electric vehicle, residential and grid applications. This market study is focused on the former.
Thin, printed and/or flexible battery (or batteries with novel form factors) are back on the agenda thanks to the rise of Internet of Things, wearables and environmental sensors. These applications require new features and battery designs that traditional battery technologies simply cannot provide. This has opened the door to innovation and added a new dimension to the global competition between battery suppliers. IDTechEx predicts that this market will grow to become a $471m industry in 2026 from a small market base today.
This is a fast changing industry. The technology is in a state of rapid progress as new designs, methods and modified chemistries are frequently announced. The business landscape is also being dramatically altered as many companies are now gearing up to progress their lab scale technologies into mass production. These are exciting years for this emerging technology.
The composition of the target market is undergoing drastic change driven by the emergence of new addressable market categories. Traditionally, the micro-power thin and printed batteries were used in skin patches, RFID tags and smart cards. Today, however, many new emerging applications have appeared, enticing many large players to enter the foray and thus transforming a business landscape that was once populated predominantly by small firms.
The change in target markets is inevitably causing change in the technology landscape too. This means that the market in 2026 will look vastly different from that in 2016, both on the technology and market level. Technology and markets that are major constituents today will have a small role to play, while new segments and technology will grow to dominate this sector. This change is shown in the figure below.
IDTechEx provides detailed technology assessment and benchmarking, ten-year market forecasts segmented by application and technology type, and detailed interview-based business intelligence and profiles on key players and large end-users.
In this study IDTechEx has drawn upon at least 35 direct interviews and visits with key suppliers and large end-users from a variety of sectors and years of accumulated experience and market knowledge for the end use applications such as active RFIDs, smart cards, skin patches, smart packaging and recently wearables and IoT. Our team working on this project is highly technical, enabling it to fully understand the merits and challenges of each technology in this complex landscape.
Complex landscape to navigate
The market and technology landscape is complex. There are no black-and-white and clear technology winners and the definition of market requirements is in a constant state of flux.
Indeed, on the technology side, there are many solutions that fall within the broad category of thin film, flexible or printed batteries. These include printed batteries, thin-film batteries, laminar lithium-polymer batteries, advanced lithium-ion batteries, micro-batteries, stretchable batteries, thin flexible supercapacitors. It is therefore confusing technology landscape to navigate and betting on the right technology is not straightforward.
On the market side, many applications are still emerging and the requirements are fast evolving. The target markets are also very diverse and not overlapping, each with different requirements for power, lifetime, thinness, cost, charging cycles, reliability, flexibility, etc. This diversity of requirements means that no thin film battery solution offers a one-size-fits-all solution.
Wearable technology and electronic textiles are a major growth areas for thin film and flexible batteries. Conventional secondary batteries may meet the energy requirements of wearable devices, but they struggle to achieve flexibility, thinness and light weight. These new market requirements open up the space for energy storage solutions with novel form factors. Indeed, the majority of thin film battery companies tell us that they have on-going projects in the wearable technology field. High-energy thin film batteries have the highest potential here followed by printed rechargeable zinc battery provided the latter can improve.
The healthcare sector is also a promising target market. Skin patches using printed batteries are already a commercial reality while IDTechEx anticipates that the market for disposable medical devices requiring micro-power batteries will also expand. This is a hot space as the number of skin patch companies is rapidly rising. Here, printed zinc batteries have the highest potential but price needs to continue falling before a higher market uptake takes place. Here too, new form factors will be the key differentiator compared to the high-volume incumbents such as coin cell batteries. Medical diagnostic devices, medical sensors are also promising markets, although the current thin battery technology is not mature enough yet to be applied straightaway.
Wireless sensors/networks application is another important trend. Here, there is a trend to combine energy harvesting with thin batteries with superior form factors.
Active and battery-assisted passive RFID is also a potential target market although coin-cells are the main solutions unless there is a stringent requirement for laminar or flexible design such as in car plates. It is also in these small niches that thin film batteries might find place.
Smart cards also remain an attractive sector and several thin-film battery technologies have been optimised to meet the lamination requirements for card manufacture. The price is however too steep and lifetime too low for primary batteries (and charging challenging for secondary ones) to enable widespread market penetration. The emerging of online and mobile banking carries a long-term threat of substitution.