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Tracy Liu is the director of R&D of the Nano and Advanced Materials Institute (NAMI) in Hong Kong. At CES 2019, Liu discussed a number of battery and pressure sensor technologies being developed by the NAMI for licensing. A few technologies in particular also received CES Innovation Awards.
Nolan Johnson: Tracy, as the director of R&D for the NAMI in Hong Kong, you came to CES 2019 with some award-winning technologies and applications. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re doing?
Tracy Liu: At the NAMI, we do market-driven applied research, unlike what the university is doing, which is fundamental research. This year, we brought five technologies to showcase at CES. The first one is the printed primary battery. The key point is that we print all of the components of these batteries from the current collector to the electrolytes, electrode materials, and the whole package. This is a cost-effective and high-performance, paper-like battery. The key point is that this battery can offer a very high current output, which can support some very advanced IoT communication functions.
Johnson: So, at the risk of showing my ignorance, what are you printing the battery on?
Liu: We printed the battery on plastic substrates such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), PI (polyimide), or anything that was plastic or flexible—even on a piece of paper.
Johnson: Very interesting. Is it printable on older technologies like FR-4?
Liu: It is. The battery can be printed on the substrate such as FR-4. However, the amazing point is that we can make the battery very flexible, so a flexible substrate should be more suitable for our batteries.
Johnson: That’s very interesting and useful technology on any substrate.
Liu: Even on woven fabric or clothes.
Johnson: Is this something that is ready for the market now?
Liu: We are working with our industry partners to apply this battery into things such as safety patches. We put it in an IoT device, which is integrated with a vibration sensor. When there is a vibration, or a person falls, it can detect it, send a message to the cloud, and people will know the person has fallen down.
Johnson: Running off of this battery?
Johnson: How do you recharge it?
Liu: This is a primary battery, so it’s disposable. It is very low-cost and made with zinc and manganese. It can be fabricated under ambient environment, unlike a lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable but the fabrication of lithium-ion battery needs an inner-gas environment.
Johnson: What are your next steps for bringing this battery to market?
Liu: We are working with different industries to apply this kind of battery for different applications. For example, we will develop a microcurrent system for the facial mask to enhance the active-agent delivery to our skin to improve penetration. For IoT devices, we are developing different applications such as asset tracking. There are a lot of applications.
Johnson: Since you’re showing this technology at CES, you’re obviously looking to make the U.S., North America, and the world aware of your technology. Do you have representation in the U.S? If someone wants to specify this battery for their product, is there someone to work within the U.S. or do they come to you directly in Hong Kong?
Liu: The NAMI is a government-funded research institute, and we work with some companies in Hong Kong to commercialize the technology; some of our industrial partners have connections with U.S. companies. We also welcome collaboration with industries in other countries for commercialization of the technologies through licensing.
To read the full article, which appeared in the April 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.