One of the major complaints about current smartwatches, such as those running Android Wear, is that they can't last much longer than a day on a charge.
Solid state batteries might offer a solution, providing up to twice as much energy as conventional lithium-ion batteries. Santa Clara-based Applied Materials, one of the largest equipment suppliers for the semiconductor and display industries, has figured out how to manufacture these batteries on the cheap, according to MIT Technology Review.
Solid state batteries aren't new, but they are traditionally expensive to produce in high volumes because of the way electrical contacts, electrodes and solid electrolytes must be layered on top of one another. Any gaps in the materials can lead to short circuits, making mass production difficult.
Applied Materials says it's addressing these challenges with new manufacturing tools that can deposit the battery materials over large areas at high precision. The company says that its tools are already in use by customers--no names disclosed, of course--and that wearable devices will be among the first applications.
For wearables, solid state batteries have a side benefit: Because they don't have a liquid element, they're easier to make in different shapes, so we could potentially see batteries built into curved watch faces and flexible watch bands.
On the downside, Applied Materials isn't talking publicly about cost, total energy storage or recharge time, and solid state suffers limitations with power output that still need to be addressed. In other words, this sounds like yet another promising battery technology that is years away from the market.
Still, most battery advancements that we hear about come from university research, with no indication of how the technology could ever be mass produced. The fact that Applied Materials is using an existing technology and focusing on the manufacturing side is at least an encouraging sign that longer-lasting wearables are on the horizon.