Bolder Technologies Corp. Golden, Colo.

Thin Metal Film Battery Technology

Imagine cold-crank starting an automobile engine with a six-cell battery pack that weighs as little as 2 lb. This year Bolder Technologies Corp., Golden, Colo., began commercial production of ultra-high-power batteries that make such an application possible. Bolder's thin metal film (TMF) battery technology puts out large amounts of current (hundreds of amps from a single C-cell-sized battery) in a small package and extremely quickly (in microseconds). Bolder's batteries utilizing TMF technology also can be recharged in less than five minutes due to the cell's low impedance (less than 1.5 mohm). Energy transfer for the batteries, both discharge and recharge, is extremely efficient. The low impedance rate also means the cell can retain capacity at higher discharge rates, unlike conventional batteries in which capacity decreases as the discharge rate rises. "This battery has taken huge leaps in terms of how much current can come out of the battery, where other batteries simply cannot provide that current at all," says Art Homa, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing. "We have a battery that's a little bit bigger than a finger that can put out over 1,000 amps of current, and there's really nothing else that can come close to that." Homa says the technology is enabling applications that simply did not exist before, as well as reducing the size of batteries and increasing the portability of power supplies for many battery applications. The Bolder TMF batteries were developed based on traditional lead-acid battery technology, but with patented mechanical construction that combines the attributes of a capacitor with the energy density of a battery. According to the company, the development challenge was in creating a manufacturable battery that met corporate expectations for performance, life, and market acceptance, that is, producing a commercial lead-battery plate that can literally be called a "film" or "foil." Early development of the TMF technology was done by its inventor, Tris Juergens, and further work was conducted at the Boulder Technology Incubator in Boulder, Colo. The entire rechargeable battery market exceeds $16 billion, and Bolder Technologies expects to sell to a 70% to 80% portion of that pie, sectors such as portable power tools, medical equipment, toys, portable generators, power-quality applications, and emergency engine starting. One new application, notes Homa, is in industrial applications as an emergency backup supply for production equipment in the event of a power shortage. Such an outage, even briefly, can bring down a line as well as cause equipment malfunctions. "This is a technology that can essentially act as a power-quality device to maintain such a production line through a brownout of a short duration . . . and therefore save a ton of money in potential lost downtime," points out Homa. Bolder Technologies is producing the batteries for value-added partners and original equipment makers. One customer, Advanced Technology Products, Worcester, Mass., has incorporated the Bolder TMF technology into its Start Stick. The flashlight-sized, self-contained cordless starting system can jump-start the engine of virtually any single-engine plane. This year a prototype of the Start Stick was awarded the Stan Dzik Memorial Award For Technological Innovation at the Oshkosh Air Show (attended by more than 825,000 people). Homa says the portable Start Stick device jump-started numerous airplanes throughout the show; it was merely pulled from a belt and plugged into an aircraft. "It's a fairly dramatic exclamation point on how the technology can change some of the rules," notes Homa. "It was a very impressive and very visible demonstration of the technology's benefits."

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