Energizer to Release OEM Version of Zinc/Air Battery
by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor
The history of portable electronics is one of decreasing size, both for the devices themselves and the batteries to power them. A while back, I reported on the Quad A battery—specifically, Energizer’s push to make the Quad A more commercially available. The Quad A was commercially available (though not prevalent) since 1989. Similarly, the technology behind Energizer’s latest offering, the Zinc Air Prismatic Battery (or ZAP for short), has been around since 1991. Developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the zinc/air battery has, until now, been used primarily in hearing aids (in a miniscule form factor). Energizer is finalizing a version (the ZAP battery) for OEMs.
The technology behind the Zinc/Air battery is a novel approach. Embedded zinc is oxidized through exposure to air, and this material replaces the cathode of conventional batteries. This frees up more space for the anode, and according to Energizer, “The benefit is up to 3X the runtime of an equivalent size alkaline or Lithium Ion rechargeable battery.” According to Energizer’s figures, the ZAP battery compares to equivalent volume Quad A’s thusly: in 50mW devices, the ZAP gets 38 hours of runtime vs. 14 hours for the Lithium Ion, and 12 for the Alkaline model. What’s the catch? The ZAP battery is non-rechargeable, but this seems negligible in light of its (advertised) runtime and low price ($0.50 for OEMs).
Dimensions for the ZAP production model (the PP355) are 32.2 mm x 14.7 mm x 5.0 mm. This positions it soundly for the small electronic device market. By pulling the attached tab, you expose the ZAP battery to air, initiating the reaction. The ZAP battery has a “service life” of 3 months to 2 years, depending on the level of air regulation. Energizer has stated that, “One of the keys to fully utilizing the high energy density of this system is effectively managing the air access.”
In this editor’s opinion, the ZAP battery has great potential in the micro electronic device market. The PP355 will enter production in June of this year. Further models will follow in 2010.