Want to know just how sophisticated the technology is at Ultralife Batteries, Inc.? Just ask company executives about the “snake cam.” Last year, the Natural History Unit of the BBC contacted Ultralife to develop a battery that no other company was willing or able to create. “They were co-producing a program with the Discovery Channel,” explains Julius Cirin, vice president of marketing. “The BBC production unit had already developed minicamera and transmitter technology that could be mounted on the heads of animals they were studying or filming. They were about to begin shooting a program on snakes in South Africa, and their challenge was to find a battery light enough to be mounted on a cobra’s head. It had to be powerful, but extremely small and light. The snake had to be able to function normally in its environment, not being aware of the camera or battery.”
The answer to this slimy problem? Ultralife’s Thin Cell™ technology. Wafer-thin — as thin as 0.078 inch (2 millimeters) — this battery provides a unique combination of high energy density, long shelf life, wide operating temperature range and light weight. The battery worked flawlessly and the program was a success.
Whether it’s creating batteries for “snake cams” or developing technology for the 12 vertical markets the company focuses on, Ultralife is a pioneer in the lithium battery industry. No other battery manufacturer produces both primary (9-volt, high-rate cylindrical and pouch, and thin-cell) lithium batteries and polymer rechargeable batteries. Incorporated in 1991, Ultralife provides the most varied lithium cell and battery packaging configurations, customized solutions and manufacturing capabilities in the world. The company’s commercial and retail markets include the cellular, automotive, computing, medical, music/audio/broadcast, smoke-alarm, military, communications and search-and-rescue industries. Other customers include power utilities and municipal governments.
Ultralife’s headquarters and primary manufacturing and research and development facility is in Newark, N.Y., where the company operates a 220,000 square-foot facility. It also maintains a production and research and development center in Abingdon, England, which measures 30,000 square feet. A polymer battery manufacturing partner, Ultralife Taiwan, Inc., is located in Hsinchu Science Park, Taiwan. Ultralife’s facilities are ISO 9001-certified and in 2000, it was awarded the prestigious Best Value Bronze Medal by the U.S. Defense Supply Center in Richmond, Va.
All Charged Up
Ultralife’s original-equipment manufacturer and retail customers include leading companies such as Energizer, Fyrnetics, Kidde Safety, Agilent, Radio Shack, Amazon.com, Sears and the defense departments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. Its product line is as diverse as its clientele. Here is a sampling of Ultralife’s products along with some of their unique applications:
• Polymer rechargeable batteries: Ultralife Polymer™ rechargeable batteries are configurable in almost any prismatic shape, and can be made thinner than 0.039 inch (1 millimeter), to fill virtually any space efficiently. This design flexibility makes Ultralife Polymer™ rechargeable cells ideal for use in a wide variety of portable applications in the wireless communications, computing, medical, security, military and aerospace markets. Currently, Ultralife Polymer™ cells and batteries are being used in a variety of portable applications, such as in its cellular after-market batteries for Nokia® phones.
• 9-volt: The Ultralife lithium 9-volt battery is a consumer replaceable battery that can last up to five times longer than ordinary alkaline 9-volt batteries and 10 times longer than carbon-zinc batteries. A 10-year service life makes the Ultralife lithium 9-volt battery the choice for major smoke-alarm manufacturers in their premium lines of 10-year smoke alarms.
• High-rate cylindrical: Ultralife HiRate™ cylindrical batteries are a breakthrough in high-rate lithium battery technology. Their spiral-wound design provides high capacity with ultrahigh rates of discharge, even in extreme temperatures. Widely used in military and industrial applications, Ultralife HiRate™ lithium batteries are usually configured in multicell packs.
• High-rate pouch cell: Compact, space-efficient and high-energy, Ultralife pouch cells are ideal for applications requiring a high level of power, a wide range of operating and storage temperatures, and instant power even after long periods of storage. Applications ideal for these batteries include automotive telematics (the system in many automobiles that automatically calls for assistance in case of an emergency or accident), emergency medical devices like automated defibrillators, emergency radio beacons and military applications, like the U.S. Army Land Warrior system. This futuristic system puts computers and electronics on the soldier in the battlefield. The Ultralife pouch cell is the only battery powerful enough, yet light and thin enough, to meet the stringent paratrooper weight and thickness requirements.
• Military batteries: Military equipment needs to operate in dry desert heat, tropical jungles, cold arctic conditions and even under water. Experience in designing and manufacturing high-energy, lightweight lithium batteries has made Ultralife a logical choice for OEMs of military electronic equipment, military organizations worldwide and OEMs of commercial equipment requiring safe, lightweight and powerful portable energy.
• Seawater-activated batteries: Using salt water as the electrolyte, Ultralife’s magnesium-silver chloride (Mg/AgCl) seawater-activated primary batteries offer exceptional reliability and performance. These high-energy batteries can be stored indefinitely in a wide variety of conditions, with minimal degradation of performance. These batteries activate instantly at any temperature and depth.
• Custom-designed batteries: If one of Ultralife’s standard batteries doesn’t meet a customer’s needs, Ultralife engineers can create a custom battery solution that will.
Although its polymer division is relatively new, Ultralife expects this product line to experience dramatic growth. Polymer rechargeable technology is ideal for portable communication, computing and entertainment products. The number of these devices is exploding in the consumer and business markets.
The company has also begun supplying its high-rate lithium batteries for automotive telematics systems, which combine wireless communication with navigation and onboard systems monitoring. “Telematics systems are expected to be available in all cars within the next four to five years,” says Cirin. “All these systems require backup battery power. If the car battery or electrical system is damaged during an accident, without a backup power source the tele-matics system won’t operate. Even after being in service for up to 10 years, our environmentally friendly, high-rate lithium batteries can provide power instantly, making them an ideal backup power source.”
No matter how many applications and markets the company currently reaches, Ultralife is always diversifying its total product offering. “The worldwide market for batteries is expanding at a rapid pace and there is an increasing demand for reliable batteries with higher energy and less weight,” says Cirin. “No matter what the need, you can be sure Ultralife is ready for the challenge. We’ll always be there to provide the power.”