Apple to Redesign Battery Shapes for Future, Thinner Devices
On January 19, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals the next thing in battery designs. As Apple designs yet thinner devices, and more importantly, a next generation of devices yet unknown, they need to have the ability and flexibility to shape and contour battery designs that will fit their specific dream designs and form factors.
The Limiting Design of Battery Shapes Today
Rechargeable batteries are presently used to provide power to a wide variety of portable electronic devices, including laptop computers, mobile phones, PDAs, digital music players and cordless power tools. The most commonly used type of rechargeable battery is a lithium battery, which could include a lithium-ion or a lithium-polymer battery.
Lithium-polymer batteries often include cells that are packaged in flexible pouches. Such pouches are typically lightweight and inexpensive to manufacture. Moreover, pouches may be tailored to various cell dimensions, allowing lithium-polymer batteries to be used in space-constrained portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptop computers, and/or digital cameras. For example, a lithium-polymer battery cell may achieve a packaging efficiency of 90-95% by enclosing rolled electrodes and electrolyte in an aluminized laminated pouch. Multiple pouches may then be placed side-by-side within a portable electronic device and electrically coupled in series and/or in parallel to form a battery for the portable electronic device.
However, efficient use of space may be limited by the use and arrangement of cells in existing battery pack architectures. In particular, battery packs typically contain rectangular cells of the same capacity, size, and dimensions. The physical arrangement of the cells may additionally mirror the electrical configuration of the cells. For example, a six-cell battery pack may include six lithium-polymer cells of the same size and capacity configured in a two in series, three in parallel (2s3p) configuration. Within the battery pack, two rows of three cells placed side-by-side may be stacked on top of each other; each row may be electrically coupled in a parallel configuration and the two rows electrically coupled in a series configuration. Consequently, the battery pack may require space in a portable electronic device that is at least the length of each cell, twice the thickness of each cell, and three times the width of each cell. Furthermore, the battery pack may be unable to utilize free space in the portable electronic device that is outside of a rectangular space reserved for the battery pack.
Hence, the use of portable electronic devices may be facilitated by improvements related to the packaging efficiency, capacity, form factor, cost, design, and/or manufacturing of battery packs containing lithium-polymer battery cells.
Apple Seeks to Redesign Batteries for Future Devices
Apple's invention relates to a battery cell which includes a set of electrode sheets of different dimensions arranged in a stacked configuration to facilitate efficient use of space inside a portable electronic device. For example, the electrode sheets may be arranged in the stacked configuration to accommodate a shape of the portable electronic device. The stacked configuration may be based on a non-rectangular battery design such as a toroidal design, an L-shaped design, a triangular design, a pie-shaped design, a cone-shaped design, and/or a pyramidal design.
The electrode sheets may be electrically coupled in a parallel configuration. The parallel configuration may involve electrically coupling a first set of conductive tabs, wherein each of the first set of conductive tabs is coupled to a cathode of one of the electrode sheets, and electrically coupling a second set of conductive tabs, wherein each of the second set of conductive tabs is coupled to an anode of one of the electrode sheets.
In some embodiments, the first set of conductive tabs is electrically coupled using at least one of a wire-bonding technique, a spot-welding technique, a crimping technique, a riveting technique, and an ultrasonic-welding technique. The second set of conductive tabs may also be electrically coupled using the same technique(s).
The following Patent Graphics illustrate the various battery designs/shapes under consideration at Apple. The proposed battery cell may supply power to a portable electronic device such as a laptop computer, mobile phone, tablet computer, personal digital assistant (PDA), portable media player, digital camera, and/or other type of battery-powered electronic device.
As shown in FIG. 1 below, the battery cell includes a number of layers that form a wedge-shaped, terraced structure.
In one or more embodiments, the battery cell of FIG. 1 facilitates efficient use of space within the portable electronic device. For example, the terraced and/or curved edges of the battery cell may allow the battery cell to fit within a curved enclosure for the portable electronic device. The number of layers (e.g., layers 102-108) may also be increased or decreased to better fit the curvature of the portable electronic device's enclosure. In other words, the battery cell may include an asymmetric and/or non-rectangular design that accommodates the shape of the portable electronic device. In turn, the battery cell may provide greater capacity, packaging efficiency, and/or voltage than rectangular battery cells in the same portable electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 illustrated below shows us the placement of battery 602 within an iPad (portable electronic device) and more specifically, that battery is shown to be placed along the outside perimeter of the iPad. Furthermore, the battery may include a toroidal, L-shaped, and/or pie-shaped design to accommodate a curved and/or scalloped shape of the portable electronic device. The interior of the battery may be hollow to allow components to be placed within the portable electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 shows a cross-sectional view of the battery which shows us that it will be able to fill up the space along the curved sides of the iPad (portable electronic device). As a result, the battery may represent increased packaging efficiency and/or capacity over a rectangular battery that is used in the same iPad today.
For in-depth information on Apple's invention, see patent application 20120015236 which was originally filed in Q3 2010 by inventor Bradley Spare. A secondary battery patent application was published today under patent number 20120015223 titled "Battery Pack with Cells of Different Capacities.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
Other patent applications of interest published today include continuation patent 20120013823 which relates to solar power-enhanced MacBooks. We first covered this in our March 2010 report titled "Solar Powered MacBooks May be in our Future." Apple has already been granted two patent wins on this technology already. On the topic of Apple's illuminated keyboard, two new patent applications came to light (20120012448 and 20120013490).
On the topic of digital cameras, we find Apple's latest developments under patent application 20120013775. The focus of this patent is about improving image sharpness in iOS cameras. With Apple's forthcoming A6 processor supposedly boosting graphics x20, it's pretty clear that image sharpness is going to take a huge leap anyways. On the topic of iAd, Apple acquires new patent(s) from CVON Innovations Ltd. Other than a home page, nothing else is accessible on CVON's website, which makes us think that Apple may have acquired the company as well. If anyone has up to date information on this matter, please let us know. See patent application 20120016748 for more information on Apple's latest iAd IP.
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Here are a Few Great Sites covering our Original Report
MacSurfer, Network World, Samsung Service, Cupertino Patch, University of Tennessee, Cult of Mac, Know Your Mobile, Mac Observer, phoneArena, ApfelBlog Switzerland, Twitter, Facebook, Apple Investor News, Google Reader, Macnews, iPhone World Canada, MarketWatch, iPhoneItalia Italy, iSpazio Italy, MacTechNews Germany, iDownloadBlog, Crave UK, BGR, iPhone Rumors Italy, Wired Gadget Lab, BGR-Germany, MacDailyNews, Product Reviews, Pocketnow, iPhoneOSX Spanish, MovilZona Spain, Weblogina Persian, Xataka Spain, ZDNet Germany, Beszeljukmac Hungary, ITProPortal, and more
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Hmm, it makes you wonder what new product Apple has in mind that would require such a new battery design, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s the point of interest here.
Posted by: Joe | January 21, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I don't know how long they've been around, but another company has been working on something similar.
While Apple's patent appears to present a wider variety of shapes, it's still interesting to see that this is the next wave in battery construction. The link for freeformbattery was provided to Patently Apple by Pete Austin
Posted by: Jack Purcher | January 21, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Just a crazy thought that wouldn't happen for quite a few years. I noticed that they specifically chose to put the battery behind the bezel rather than the screen. I know that other electronics are filling up the rest of the space like the ram, processor and so on but this could allow for a see through screen similar to what we see in some movies in the future.
Posted by: Kevin | January 20, 2012 at 07:54 AM