Batteries are everywhere – not just in iPods and smart phones. They power billions of devices, but they are expensive and aren’t always easy to change. Israeli startup Sol Chip has a cure for the battery blues – an eco-friendly renewable battery power technology that integrates photovoltaic energy sources (PV) with low-power electronic devices (VLSI).
For a good example of Sol Chip’s breakthrough, check out today’s large dairy farms. Low-power radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to keep track of the herd’s location, milk production and registration details while protecting the cows against disease and theft. When the tags eventually run out of power, replacing their batteries isn’t practical since the tags have to remain sealed against humidity and rain. So farmers end up having to attach a new tag at great trouble and expense.
“If the system costs $100 per head and the farmer has 10,000 heads of cattle, you can figure out the time, effort and expense in replacing such systems,” says Sol Chip CEO Dr. Shani Keysar. “With our photovoltaic-PV renewable battery especially designed for small, low-power devices, farmers can save themselves all that work and money, on maintaining their herd management solutions.”
Banking on the sun
This is a real breakthrough for industries dependent on small battery-operated devices, Keysar tells ISRAEL21c. “There are all sorts of devices in farms, agriculture, infrastructure and homes that will benefit from this technology.”
Take medical equipment used in emergency situations as another example. “Battery performance and replacement is a major headache for medical personnel responsible for ensuring that life-saving equipment is ready when it is most needed,” Keysar says. “Our technology ensures that staff have one less thing to worry about.”
While there are several existing solar-powered solutions for devices that require longer-term low voltage power, Sol Chip’s technology is unique because it allows for the integration of the PV chip with transistors.
“The process halves the cost of devices like tags and ensures greater efficiency of energy use,” says Keysar. “The transistors and the power cell are exposed to the sun and store energy using the PV technology, allowing the device to continue functioning at all hours of the day.”
While this sounds like a great idea for cell phones and tablets, Keysar says that Sol Chip’s technology is really designed for smaller devices that use much less power – but that are less accessible for recharging than are consumer items.
“We are concentrating for now on the agricultural market, where there is a great opportunity,” Keysar says, adding that today the company is working on an application for Israeli company, Netafim, which specializes in drip irrigation. “Our technology will allow sprinkler systems to work almost indefinitely, without the need to change batteries,” Keysar explains.
Keysar adds that she has been in talks with several foreign companies, “including a worldwide conglomerate that is at the top of its field.”
Sol Chip is based in Haifa and has three full-time employees, along with support staff. The company was formed in 2009 and is a member of the Trendlines Group’s Mofet B’Yehuda Innovation Accelerator, which is its major funding source. And the first Sol Chips should be on the market soon.
“We’re currently doing initial tests on components of the product, which is about to go into mass production. We expect to begin selling by the first or second quarter of 2012,” Keysar says.
And just in time, too. “There is an enormous demand for low-power devices, and until now their ability to operate autonomously is limited by battery lifespan, and their use hampered by the high cost of replacing batteries, device down-time and the hazardous effects of battery waste on the environment. Our technology directly addresses these needs,” she says.