Very Low Cost Wireless Galvanostat With Nanoamp Resolution

Tech ID: 17643 / UC Case 2006-074-0

Abstract

Testing and characterization of electrochemical energy cells such as microbatteries is critical in the development of battery-powered microelectronics. Discharge and cycle testing of microbatteries may require days or weeks of continuous monitoring, and often must be conducted in a closed environment such as a glovebox. Galvanostatic studies are at present the preferred method for characterizing the performance of energy cells, but characterization of microbattery performance requires galvanostats with microamp or better resolution.

Commercially available galvanostats are capable of testing multiple cells in parallel, but instruments with the required microamp resolution are bulky, cost at least $1000 per channel, and must be hard-wired to each test cell. Higher resolution instruments cost from $5000 to $10,000 per channel?prohibitively expensive for many testing facilities. Commercial galvanostats are also useful for testing and characterizing fuel cells and for electrodeposition studies and corrosion measurement, and while resolution is not a cost driver, instruments for these applications are also large and expensive, and have limited scalability.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a wireless galvanostat device with nanoamp resolution. The device supplies a programmable constant current anywhere from 1 nanoamp to 15 milliamps. The device is preferable to conventional galvanostats for applications such as battery and capacitor development, and for corrosion or electrodeposition studies, where testing in a usage environment and cost per channel are critical factors. The unit is small, battery powered, and transmits all data wirelessly to a computer, allowing for quick and easy placement in an inert atmosphere, such as a glove box or deposition chamber. Fabrication cost of Berkeley?s wireless galvanostat is less than $100 per channel, even without factoring in economies of scale.

Applications

Electrochemistry R&D, battery development, fuel cell applications, electro-deposition studies, corrosion measurement, electro-synthesis/electro-chromic materials, biosensor/immuno- sensor research, photovoltaic applications, super capacitor technology

Advantages

Nanoamp resolution, rapid deployment, self organizing, flexible, low cost, multi-channel capability, wireless connection to data acquisition computer

Patent Status

Patent Pending

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Keywords

fuel cells, software, alternative energy, photochemistry, networking, sensors, batteries, wireless: component, wireless: system, electrochemistry, instrumentation, peripherals, engineering, equipment, wireless, chemical

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