Israeli technology could presage a world without batteries

Sol-Chip’s embedded photovoltaic energy systems will power a plethora of devices, from the sun

Shani Keysar (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Shani Keysar (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Sol Chip, an Israeli start-up with a patented embedded solar battery technology, has raised $1 million for development of its products, which include an eco-friendly renewable battery power technology using photovoltaic energy (PV), integrated with low power electronic devices (VLSI). The money comes from a consortium which includes the Israel Electric Company, and private US investors.

Sol Chip’s technology is designed to replace batteries used in a plethora of devices in the field — security systems, water systems, gas sensors, RFID chips, and many more. “Farms, businesses, and homes will benefit from this technology,” said Dr. Shani Keysar, CEO of Sol Chip. “Battery replacement is a major hassle in many industries, from agriculture to manufacturing to health. Our technology ensures that farmers, businesses, and medical personnel have one less thing to worry about.”

Sol Chip’s batteries are designed for use in devices that have low power consumption — but nevertheless need batteries to continue running — and where it would be difficult or impossible to change those batteries.

In many of the small devices used in industry and agriculture, batteries are embedded in the chips that power the devices, in order to make them as small and portable as possible. But because the battery is embedded, the device becomes useless once the battery dies. Often it’s just easier to replace the device altogether. That can be expensive, and compounded with the loss of service — interruption that is sometimes not even detected until an event occurs indicating that the device isn’t working — the entire affair can be a major hassle and expense.

Sol Chip’s embedded battery technology, which uses its PV battery to replace the standard battery, can solve both issues, said Keysar. The technology can be used to manufacture batteries for VSLI devices, or can be integrated into sensors and devices.

In one test project, the Sol Chip system was installed in agricultural watering sensors from Netafim, which makes automatic sprinkler and irrigation systems for commercial crops. Generally, Netafim systems rely on the small batteries embedded in the sensors that trigger when watering should take place, depending on time of day, weather conditions, etc. The batteries run out after a year or less of deployment, with replacement of the sensors requiring the dispatching of a worker. Using sensors embedded with Sol Chip’s battery power system, which draws much of its energy from the sun, “the sprinkler systems will work almost indefinitely, without the need to change batteries or sensors,” said Keysar.

The Sol Chip batteries can save dairy farmers a pretty penny, as well; farmers whose cows are equipped with RFID tags that keep track of their health and status will be able to dispense with the half-yearly ritual of swapping the tags. “If each tag needs to be replaced even once a year and each costs a dollar, and a farmer has 10,000 head of cattle, you can figure out the savings” — not to mention the time, effort, and energy that farmers save using the Sol Chip devices.

Sol Chip embedded sensors and batteries may even save lives, said Keysar. One of the ongoing tasks for emergency medical personnel is testing life-saving equipment, like defibrillators and other machines, to ensure that they will work properly in the field. Again, many of these devices rely on batteries and sensors with embedded power chips, which need to be replaced on a regular basis. With Sol Chip’s long-life batteries and embedded sensors, medical personnel “have one less thing to worry about,” said Keysar.

The initial applications of the technology will be in agriculture, smart city sensor systems, and RFID location and identification systems. Eventually, the technology could power smart homes and smart devices, making battery-changing for smoke alarms, cellphones, and the other small but essential items that we all need but never seem to work when we really need them, because their battery died.

Sol Chip had previously raised about a million dollars from the Office of the Chief Scientist and Mofet Innovation Accelerator, sponsored by the Trendlines Group. Keysar expects the first embedded chips to hit the market early next year. Keysar added that the company had already received a large order from a European client, which, pending reliability tests, is set to purchase hundreds of thousands of units.

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