Lab markets battery that last decades
By Susan Danseyar
With licensing now in hand from the state, Homestead’s City Labs Inc. has been selling its latest creation, a hardy, long-lasting battery for commercial uses. These batteries are capable of operating under extremes of temperature for a period of several decades.
Co-founder and CEO Peter Cabauy, who is trained in applied physics, said the company is selling its durable battery – known as a betavoltaic battery – anywhere in the US.
The betavoltaic battery works like a solar cell but, instead of receiving light to produce electricity, it receives electron particles from tritium to accomplish the same goal. It can withstand extremes of both cold and heat, unlike lithium batteries which cannot do both, Dr. Cabauy said.
“Commercialization is very regulated and it takes time to insert new technology into existing industries,” he said last week. “We received a general license from the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Radiation Control.”
According to Dr. Cabauy, this means that anyone can buy it as long as the user follows instructions described in the manual. Thus, it’s suitable for a number of military, medical and construction uses.
For example, Dr. Cabauy said, City Labs is talking to medical firms to partner up for a new kind of pacemaker that will be inserted by a catheter rather than traditional surgery.
“We are trying to bring the battery down to the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil.” he said. The long life of this battery – lasting more than 20 years – at a very low power makes it useful in places that are hard to reach.
Dr. Cabauy said major markets for the batteries include encryption keys that hold passwords when computers are turned off, military detection of an intruder, and oil-rig platform sensors that can spot problems and industrial machinery where temperatures are dramatically high.
The batteries can also be invaluable to people in the construction industry for sensors to detect problems that occur over time inside concrete structures, he said.
Currently, Dr. Cabauy said, the cost is in the range of a few thousand dollars, but it will come down to a few hundred with economies of scale and improvements in technology.
City Labs, at 301 Civic Count in Homestead, was founded in 2005. The company completed a million-dollar contract in the early part of 2013 with the US Air Force by supplying a small betavoltaic battery that works in temperatures ranging from about -67 degrees Fahrenheit to +302 degrees Fahrenheit.
The company is currently working on military and commercial partnerships.
“We have completed the Air Force contract. Currently, our technology is being validated by defense labs for use in platforms like intruder detection,” Dr. Cabauy said. “We are also actively looking to partner in the medical device arena.”
City Labs, now with five employees, plans to expand its sales force and manufacturing division.