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Phone home with Israeli solar cells

Posted By Karin Kloosterman On September 9, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

An Israeli company has developed solar energy powered battery chargers that give you the emergency power you need to recharge your mobile devices, anywhere.

Out for a picnic on a sunny day and your cell phone dies? No power? No problem. The Israeli chip and battery company Techtium will give your phone a shot of “green” power while you sip on lemonade.

Techtium’s TEC103 solar powered battery charger is inside re-charging devices available at Staples stores and Duty Free shops in American airports. It claims to be the most efficient solution on the market, charging up your devices with a full 85 percent of the power that it squeezes from the sun.

The names of the brands with Techtium technology inside cannot be divulged yet, but the company’s technical marketing director Daniel Breiting is prepared to reveal one clue: Look for the solar power packs that can re-fuel Bluetooth handsets, he tells ISRAEL21c.

While Techtium is not the only company in the solar power pack business, Breiting says it provides the most efficient and the most compact solution. It manages to utilize 85 percent of the solar power stored in the device, while other solar charging solutions generally achieve only about 50% efficiency.

It’s a breakthrough solution for portable solar applications like mobile phones, handheld solar chargers, Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth car kits.

It’s all in the chip

Currently working with smaller cell phone companies, Techtium is also negotiating with those among the top 10 in the world, hoping that they’ll choose to give their customers an environmentally friendly battery boost using the power of the sun.

The secret of Techtium’s technology is in its chip. For the technophiles out there, Techtium’s TEC103 solar solution is achieved using a combination of system engineering and innovative mixed-signal IC design.

The TEC103 solar charger can provide a single battery boost and up to twice the amount of power as alternatives like multi-cell solar modules, and up to 10 times more power than solutions that work in partially shaded areas, the company says.

Typically, cell phone or Bluetooth headsets require a 3.74 volt supply, which Techtium can provide. Laptops need 12 to 15 volts, and batteries that pack that much punch are still in development.

Breiting explains that other solar charging solutions utilize only about 50% of their solar power because of design weaknesses resulting from hooking up solar cell panels in series.

No clouds in your way

“Current charging solutions typically require multiple solar cells in series, which drives up cost, reduces efficiency and increases sensitivity to shading losses and PV array element mismatches,” he says.

To achieve four or five volts from a PV or photovoltaic array, solar power providers connect a number of small panels together in a series – about 0.5 volts each – to reach the required voltage.

Panels that are cut into smaller sizes lose efficiency, says Breiting. The smaller the solar panels the greater is the area of damage at their outer edges.

“When someone cuts the pieces of big PV cells to a small PV cell, we have what we call a ‘damaged area’ of the boundaries around the cell. When you cut smaller, the relative damaged areas get bigger,” says Breitling.

There is also something called the weak link, he explains, which in electrical circuit talk is determined by the weakest piece of solar cell. Among 10 cells, if one section is limited in output, the entire output of the array will be constrained.

Using its specially engineered chip to provide a smart power solution, Techtium is able to use a single array of solar panels, rather than a number of them in 0.5-volt installments. This means that Techtium can better meet the power needs of your hungry electronic devices, as you and your cell phone soak up the sunny summer days.

A battery of experience in the battery business

Techtium, a company of 25 headquartered in Tel Aviv, is no new kid on the block.

Founded in 1995 as a semi-conductor company, prior to entering the solar battery business it supplied the technology for millions of emergency backup power units to major businesses like Nokia (the Extra Power DC-8) and to Energizer’s Energi To Go power pack. These devices are still on the market, priced at about $40 each.

“Before solar came to life in our company, we made a solution to power up portable devices using standard devices and AA batteries. We developed a solution using on-the-shelf standards to power up mobile phones,” Breiting recounts.

“The same devices,” he adds “can charge iPhones, iPods and MP3 players, and of course other cell phones.”

With sales units in Hong Kong, the US and a subsidiary in the Netherlands that’s responsible for the design of its chip, expect to see Techtium’s solar packs firing up cell phones for the major players and possibly even for laptops in the near future.


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