STMicroelectronics has teamed up with a French public technological research organisation, CEA, to develop and commercialise new miniaturized energy sources such as solid-state microbatteries and micro-fuel cells. The two companies will establish a common laboratory in Tours and Grenoble, France, that will pursue advanced research in fields. Other promising energy generation, conversion and storage technologies that will be investigated include thermoelectric and mechanical scavenging techniques that convert, for example, physical motion into electrical power, always with a focus on low power applications.
ST, which has a major manufacturing facility in Tours, and CEA Liten (Laboratory of Innovation for New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials), a research laboratory of CEA based in Grenoble, France, will collaborate on a four-year program to develop new miniaturized technologies for energy solutions with a particular emphasis on powering mobile phones, laptop computers and other portable electronic products.
The collaboration will involve more than fifty researchers, distributed approximately between sites in Grenoble and Tours.
“We have a long experience in working with ST, including successful previous collaborations with its Tours teams in this field. We know the strength of their expertise, which was a factor in making us decide to set up a common lab between Tours and Grenoble”, said Jean Therme, director of the Technological Research Division at the CEA. “The manufacturing know-how of ST will be an important asset in the industrialization of the new technologies we will develop.”
The joint research team will work on a variety of projects. These include micro-fuel cells specifically designed to power mobile phones using fuel that can be topped up at any time, thin-film microbatteries for use in applications such as “smart labels”, which are expected to replace existing barcode technology, and Radio-Frequency ID tags, and the development of new energy scavenging technologies. These new technologies, many of which will exploit ST’s expertise in manufacturing using extremely thin films of materials, are expected to bring multiple benefits in terms of lower cost, size or weight as well as providing more environment-friendly solutions that will be widely welcomed by consumers. Thin, solid state microbatteries will also open up new opportunities in areas such as medical implants where replacing or recharging conventional batteries is difficult or impossible.
“The proliferation of portable devices has created a huge demand for energy sources such as rechargeable batteries but existing solutions still leave room for improvements in terms of performance, operating life and environmental impact. We believe that the complementary skills of ST and CEA Liten will lead to the development and industrialization of cost-effective new technologies that will meet these challenges”, said Carmelo Papa, Executive Vice President and General Manager of ST’s Industrial and Multisegment Sector (IMS).
The R&D group of ST’s IMS organization has been working for several years developing know-how and expertise in the field of micro fuel cells and microbatteries, with research teams based in Tours and Catania working together as well as with research institutes in France and Italy. The agreement between ST and CEA Liten will further strengthen collaboration with important research institutes and will reinforce ST’s position in this important sector.