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Ultra Fast Carbon Batteries are set to revolutionise manufacturing

NAWA Technologies founder Pascal Boulanger
NAWA Technologies founder Pascal Boulanger

French company NAWA Technologies has developed a new type of battery that can not only bring huge efficiency savings to the factory environment but even provide a blueprint for tomorrow’s transport network. The company’s founder, Pascal Boulanger, explains more.

The industrial world is constantly seeking ways to become faster and more efficient – and anything that reduces downtime, speeds up production and cuts overall costs is the ultimate goal. But where do you look to make improvements?

One area where major advances are being made is in battery technology. Currently there are two major trends in storage devices: one, the ability to hold more energy and two, the ability to offer much faster charging and a longer lifetime. One such innovation is the Ultra Fast Carbon Battery (UFCB) from NAWA Technologies, which is ideal for power tools and automated guided vehicles.

Ultra Fast Carbon Battery UFCB from NAWA TechnologiesBased on the principle of the ultracapacitor, this energy storage solution can be charged and discharged within seconds. And it can do so over a million cycles without any loss in performance and high efficiency. Because it uses carbon as a base material – aligned carbon nanotube electrodes with a unique coating – and not a precious material like lithium, the UFCB is environmentally friendly and also very, very fast with unique storage capabilities. Compared to regular ultracapacitors, UFCB’s can hold five times more power or energy depending on application.

So this technology bridges the gap between lithium ion and regular ultracapcitors – but how does it benefit the world of manufacturing?

Well, when it comes to the industrial world, we have been using the same type of batteries in handheld devices – such as power tools – for the last 20 years. Some companies have made significant progress in increasing battery capacity i.e. how long the battery can last on a charge and its lifespan, but very little progress has been made with regards to its fast charge capabilities.

NAWA’s UFCB design gives portable and hand-held devices the ability to take-on and store electricity at a phenomenal rate. Today’s power tools use lithium-powered batteries because of their ability to store large amounts of energy, but they have to spend a significant period of time recharging. Lithium-powered batteries used in power tools also have less energy capacity than batteries from mobile phones or cars. So, gram-for-gram, they are more expensive.

Then there is the fact that power tool batteries cannot be charged more than several hundred times, forcing companies to change the batteries far more often for demanding industrial applications, and because there is the cost of the initial investment, operating costs and the lifetime of the battery/tool to consider, the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is high.

Finally, given they operate at high power (high rates of charge and discharge), the batteries suffer more from heat degradation and, to overcome this, they are larger than they really need to be. Over the course of its lifetime the UFCB will store more energy than any lithium battery, so based on charging cycles, they are far less expensive.

NAWA’s UFCB perfectly suits this power profile. It can quickly and easily provide high power, and function in high temperatures – all without having to make the system larger. In applications where the typical usage is instant power bursts (for instance a nail gun that uses power only while driving nails), NAWA’s UFCB is the most effective battery design. It reduces the size of the battery pack while making it possible to recharge in less than a minute. The user will also have a lighter tool that he/she can recharge just by putting it on a wireless charging station. This can be done millions of times – drastically reducing the number of battery replacements needed, and thereby reducing the TCO.

NAWA’s UFCB can also be used alongside existing battery technology, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid system combining high energy and high power. This can be used in a wide variety of hand-held, motorised tools and is most effective in machinery that is frequently in-and-out of use throughout the day.

These need a battery to power the system over a long period of time but at a relatively low current, but for some very specific tasks they also may need higher current. In this case, NAWA’s UFCB will do the job. Let’s take an electric saw, for example. It needs more power to start for the first hundredth of a millisecond and then operates at lower current. The starting current can, therefore, be provided by the NAWA’s UFCB. Furthermore, when you stop the saw, it continues to rotate, allowing you to harvest that wasted energy back into the UFCB. You see similar operational modes in many other power-tools, such as a booster, a screwdriver, or a jackhammer – all potential uses for a hybrid-ultracapacitor arrangement.

The technology can also be applied to electric vehicles used in manufacturing. Take AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), for example, which are currently mainly powered by lead-acid batteries.

Two of the major problems facing AGVs are, firstly, the fact that while charging they are not in use – and are, therefore, inefficient, requiring additional AGVs to be used while they are charging. Secondly, battery maintenance and replacements are cumbersome and difficult to carry out. At NAWA, we believe that it will be more efficient to replace existing batteries with UFCB combined with a system of multiple fast-chargers – so that AGVs can be recharged at various locations (wirelessly when picking up or delivering or while driving). This would mean there would be no idling AGVs, less back-up AGVs, no battery replacement, and safer recharging.

In fact, in this way, the factory environment could potentially provide the blueprint for other electric road vehicles as the industrial applications of a system of UFCB and multiple charging points are almost endless; vehicles at airports, harbours, buses or even for a small electric vehicle sharing network in cities.

Looking further ahead there is an argument that such a system could be used across an entire city with ride-sharing autonomous vehicles. Why? Well, currently, cars are not in use for around 95 per cent of their lives and represent up to 30 per cent of the constructible footprint of a city, while they are only actively being driven for five percent of time.

That is a long way into the future of course. What is not is the use of NAWA Technologies’ UFCB in the industrial environment. We believe our innovation will be in widespread use, in power tools and AGVs, within the next two-to-three years. Sustainable, safe, efficient – and a crucial part of the ongoing development of clean, affordable energy. Watch this space.

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