Innovations in SMF batteries

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The perception about batteries is changing fast, especially with industrial users realising that a battery is a critical link to ensure backup power. Today, sealed maintenance free (SMF) batteries are the most popular technology used in a host of applications—from small UPS systems to large systems deployed in huge industrial plants. SMF batteries do not need maintenance and are pollution free. They, therefore, comply with the expectations of those customers that need to install batteries which require minimal or no maintenance, while being clean and ‘green’.

By Srabani Sen

Friday, November 12, 2010: SMF battery industry is, thus, growing year on year, and this trend will get an impetus with the government’s focus on infrastructure development, growth in the telecom sector, and the emphasis on renewable energy in the current budget. The battery market in India is worth Rs 100 billion, with SMF valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries contributing about 20-22 per cent of this turnover.

Currently, this technology is widely used in telecommunications and in the power sector, and to some extent in the railways. Of late, the solar power industry has also offered good scope.

Kunwer Sachdev, CEO, Su-kam Power Systems

“Nowadays, customers are becoming more aware and don’t mind spending a few hundred rupees more for SMF batteries. They know about the disadvantages and hazards of lead acid batteries. The lead acid battery market size is reducing day by day, giving way to the SMF market,” says Kunwer Sachdev, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd.

“In fact, almost everything today contains a battery, and battery innovations are a major factor in the development of new devices. These devices, in turn, can transform markets and create new markets,” points out Manish Gupta, proprietor, Lzen Electronics.

Innovations in SMF batteries

In the age of innovation, the battery industry has not been left behind. Currently, two new types have entered the Indian battery market—absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries and gel (or gel cell) batteries. These are often colloquially called sealed lead acid batteries, but they always include a safety pressure relief valve. As opposed to vented (also called flooded) batteries, a VRLA battery’s electrolyte does not spill if it is inverted. VRLA batteries also use much less electrolyte (battery acid) than traditional lead acid batteries.

Rajesh Gupta, director, Okaya Power

“VRLA batteries are designed to prevent electrolyte loss through evaporation, spillage and gassing, which in turn, prolongs the life of the battery and reduces maintenance. Instead of simple vent caps on the cells to let gas escape, VRLA batteries have pressure valves that open only under extreme conditions. Valve regulated batteries also need an electrolyte design that reduces gassing by impeding the release into the atmosphere of the oxygen and hydrogen generated by the galvanic action of the battery during charging. This usually involves a catalyst that causes the hydrogen and oxygen to recombine into water and is called a recombinant system. Due to spillage of the acid, electrolyte is eliminated, and the batteries are also safer,” explains Manish Gupta.

“Keeping up with the demands of customers, SMF batteries are now designed to provide outstanding performance to withstand overcharge, over discharge, and to resist vibration and shock. Compact in size, these batteries save installation space, while providing full and reliable power. The use of special sealing epoxies and techniques assures users that the SMF VRLA battery has exceptional leak resistance and can be used in any position,” explains Kapil Sood, CEO, Amptek Batteries.

Praveen Kumar Sood, chairman, Regnant Energy Solutions

The latest innovation in this sector seems to be the deep cycle batteries. “Deep cycle batteries are based on 4BS technology and can be easily charged even after deep discharging. The entire charging process is also faster compared to a normal SMF VRLA battery of the same capacity,” says Praveen Kumar Sood, chairman, Regnant Energy Solutions.

Another innovation, as Praveen Sood points out, is the slim low height and narrow width front terminal batteries. “With 48.26 cm and 58.42 cm wide industry standard panels, in which battery banks are installed, we have made available slim low height and narrow width front terminal batteries which make maintenance as well as staking very user friendly, requiring less floor space. These are good for telecom station microwave towers or other places where office space is less. Power generating and distribution centres, railways, solar/wind power storage stations, etc, use these batteries. Also, for proliferation of portable LED based solutions that require rechargeable batteries, we offer 4V batteries from 0.7 to 4.5 Ah,” adds Praveen Sood.

AGM is an advanced technology used in SMF batteries that eliminates water loss. Once the battery is filled with acid, the battery is permanently sealed and there is no need to top it with water or check the acid level,” adds Kapil Sood.

Manish Gupta, proprietor, Lzen Electronics

“In batteries using AGM technology, electrolyte is absorbed into a mat of fine glass fibres. The plates in an AGM battery may be flat like a wet cell lead acid battery in a rectangular case,” explains Vikas Aggarwal, CEO, Computech Systems. In cylindrical AGMs, the plates are thin and wound into spirals, like most consumer disposable and rechargeable cells. The spiral construction allows purer lead in the plates, since the plate no longer needs to support its own weight as in traditional cells. The specific power of these batteries is very good and they can be charged and discharged quite rapidly. However, their specific energy tends to be lower than the traditional flooded batteries.

Another advancement is to add gel in batteries to improve the water retention during the charging and discharging recombination cycle. This improves the heat characteristics of the battery, as it is also one of the reasons for premature failure of batteries in India due to our climatic conditions and usage patterns, wherein proper ventilation is not provided at the place where batteries are installed making them vulnerable to high operating temperatures. This results in obtaining a lower capacity, a less number of charging/discharging cycles, or both. We have models that combine the benefits of both deep cycle and gel technology in order to give our customers the ultimate deep cycle gel SMF VRLA battery,” says Praveen Sood.

Manoj Pawar, regional manager, sales, Evolute

In a gel battery, sulphuric acid is mixed with silica fumes, which makes the resulting mass gel light and immobile. Unlike a flooded wet cell lead acid battery, these batteries do not need to be kept upright. Gel batteries reduce the electrolyte evaporation and spillage common in wet cell batteries, and boast greater resistance to extreme temperatures, shock and vibration. Chemically, they are the same as wet batteries except that the antimony in the lead plates is replaced by calcium.

Another latest technology being used is expanded grid technology, by which thinner grids can be obtained to hold more active material. This increases the energy density of the batteries by reducing the lead required and, thus, reduces the cost. Many manufacturers are trying to switch over to it. Nowadays batteries are made for specific products, usage or applications like e-bikes, generators, solar applications, etc. This is done by closely monitoring chemical compositions and charging techniques. Manufacturers are spending mainly on R&D to find the right chemical composition and charging technique.

Sunil Bhatnagar, director, sales and marketing, Artheon Electronics Ltd, says, “Battery manufacturers are now adapting SMF batteries to Indian temperature conditions, however, while importing them these are mostly geared to operate in less extreme temperatures. Now, most SMF batteries work without the need for air conditioning. Similarly, deep cycle SMF batteries for rugged use in solar applications at remote places are also available. There are SMF batteries for e-bike applications, which is a new field in India. Lot of innovations have taken place in the alloys used in the battery, leading to improved efficiency and longer life.”

Vikas Aggarwal, CEO, Computech Systems

Kunwer Sachdev points out some of the technological changes that batteries have undergone. The radial grid design to enhance the performance of high rate discharge; usage of thicker grids and corrosion resistant alloys for longer life; an innovatively formulated paste for deep cycle applications; and low gas emitting alloys (Pb-Ca-Sn-Al) are a few advances worth mentioning.

“SMF VRLA batteries have very low permeability, a low resistance current path and fast recharge capability,” says Rajesh Gupta, director, Okaya Power. “We use inter cell welding of the inner cell, which provides a very low resistance current path. We also use an extra thick special alloy for very long life and to prevent water loss,” he adds.

“There is a trend towards using better methods to chemically process the battery (to prevent electrolyte loss), purer lead (to prevent plate corrosion), newer technologies in the charging equipment (to improve battery life), and thicker plates (to decrease charging time),” says Aditya Arora, marketing head, Base Corporation.

Advances are also taking place in reducing corrosion and improving battery life through various combinations of the plate paste mix. The process of battery charging is being experimented with, with the trial of different techniques including the use of fuzzy logic.

“SMF batteries were earlier available only for C20 discharge rate. However, these batteries are now being designed for C10 as well as C5 discharge rate. Manufacturers worldwide are trying various constituents to make lead acid batteries much lighter and durable. They are using lead acid batteries with electrodes modified by addition of calcium for low maintenance, low overcharging, low self discharge and longer life,” adds Manoj Pawar, regional manager, sales, Evolute.

How these innovations can help buyers

According to Sunil Bhatnagar, these innovations in batteries were required to suit Indian conditions and are being implemented to help buyers get maximum value for money. With the evolving national and international scenario, more changes will take place in the coming years. “It is an ongoing process wherein you keep on launching new models every 2-3 years to suit the buyers’ applications. At the end of the day, it is the buyer who benefits from a product’s innovation, which translates to savings in costs, usage pattern and after sales services,” he adds.

Adds Rakesh Malhotra, founder and managing director, Luminous Power Technologies Pvt Ltd, “High performance, value for money batteries for solar and inverter applications have a longer life without increasing the cost of the installation. Better charge acceptance and higher cycle life remove the mismatch in batteries, which occurs due to usage patterns and manufacturing process-related variations. This ensures that all the linked components work as a cohesive unit, which increases efficiency and lowers energy consumption .”

Power saving features

Due to its construction, SMF VRLA batteries can, to some extent, save power. “Because of the use of lead calcium alloy and highly purity materials, these batteries can be stored for long periods of time without recharge at short intervals, thus saving power,” says Kapil Sood. Amptek Batteries have exceptional deep discharge recovery and charge acceptance, which allows the battery to get charged very quickly even after deep or prolonged discharge.

Adds Kunwer Sachdev, “Quick charge capability, and less Ah input with respect to output when co pared to flooded batteries, also helps to save power.”

According to Sunil Bhatnagar, normally, discharge is due to usage or self discharge. While usage related leakages are controlled by having the right electronic components in the circuit, self discharge can be controlled by providing the right environment, that is, avoiding extreme temperatures as well as by maintaining the purity of metals to reduce internal resistance. This also helps in saving power.

Manoj Pawar points out that since batteries are being designed for faster rate of discharge, the derating factor has come down considerably. It has also enhanced efficiency of the batteries, leading to saving of power.

Products and their features

Name of manufacturer/distributor

Types of products

Price range

Important features

Contact details

Amptek Batteries

SMF industrial batteries,

SMF bike batteries, SMF motor cycle batteries

Rs 100-10,000

Designed to provide outstanding performance in withstanding overcharge, over discharge, and resisting vibration and shock, compact in size

Ph: 26782717/8;

E-mail: info@amptekindia.com, Website: www.amptekbatteries.com

Artheon Battery Company Pvt Ltd/Artheon Electronics Ltd

SMF VRLA batteries

Rs 150-10,000 depending on Ah

Strong technical team and support, state of the art manufacturing facility under JV with USA partner

Ph: 011-40516480, 022-40963300, E-mail: smf@artheonelec.com,

Website: www.artheonelec.com

Base Terminal

VLRA 1.3 – 4.2 ah 6V

VRLA 7ah – 12V to 200ah- 12V

Rs 100 – Rs 9000

Completely Maintenance Free, Zero Fume emissions

support@basecorporation.com

Computech Systems
Brand: ipower

SMF batteries for electronic weighing machines, telecommunication equipment, solar panels, medical instruments, emergency lights, solar lanterns and e-bikes

Rs 200-2,000

International quality standards, Long lasting performance, maintenance free

Ph: 11-25920254,

Mob: 9811058913,

E-mail: info@computechsystems.in,

Website: www.computechsystems.in

Evolute

Brand: Leone batteries

SMF batteries

Rs 150-13,000

UL & ERTL certified, quality batteries at competitive price

Manoj Pawar, regional manager, sales, Mob: +91 9320999283, Ph: +91 250 302 3500, Email: info@evolute-sol.com, sales@leonebatteries.com, Website:

www.evolute-sol.com

www.leonebatteries.com

Luminous Power Technologies Pvt Ltd

7.2 AH to 200 AH

 

AGM technology for efficient gas recombination,

rubber safety valve,

float or cyclic use,

ultra low self-discharge,

lead calcium alloy

can be mounted in any orientation

pankaj.sharma1@luminousindia.com

Regnant Energy Solutions

SMF VRLA

batteries

Rs 50-20,000

Deep cycle AGM and get batteries, low capacity 4V models for LED based systems, front terminal batteries

Mob: 9717944884, 9717944885,

Email- batteryinfo@regnant.co.in, Website- www.regnant.co.in

Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd

SMF batteries with different ranges and different applications

Rs 5,000-16,000

Quick charge capability, less extra Ah input with respect to output, radial grid design to enhance performance of high rate discharge, thicker grids & corrosion resistant alloys for longer life

Ph: 0124 4170500, Email: info@su-kam.com, Website: www.su-kam.com

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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