Apple planning flexible batteries for foldable iPhone or iPad

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2021
New research from Apple details many different ways of making batteries flexible enough to be used with a foldable iPhone or iPad, or to save space inside regular devices.

Flexible batteries mean displays that can bend or even be rolled up
Flexible batteries mean displays that can bend or even be rolled up


The most visibly obvious problem to be solved for a foldable phone or tablet, is the screen. We've already seen Apple's working on displays with hinges, plus we've seen issues with the Samsung Galaxy Fold. There are other components that need to be flexible, however, and Apple is looking at batteries.

"Flexible battery structure," US Patent No 10,637,017, is concerned with how to power a foldable display, but it's also looking to fix a recurring problem with all devices.

"Batteries often take up a substantial amount of space in a portable electronic device," it explains. "As devices have grown increasingly more power hungry, greater amounts of space need to be dedicated to accommodate space for the batteries."

"In addition to taking up space, the batteries are also often quite rigid, often making placement of the batteries in portions of a device designed to bend impractical," it continues. "When the battery is rigid and unable to withstand substantial amounts of bending, the substantial portion of the device that surrounds the battery is also unable to bend."

Apple's several proposals all center on working with both battery cells and the connections between them. "One solution... is to separate the flexible battery cells into discrete regions," it says.

"For example, the flexible battery cells can be rolled up into discrete cylinders and then distributed across a flexible substrate," it continues. "Depending on the interval between the discrete cylinders and diameter of the discrete cylinders, the resulting battery can be flex about at least one axis."

Much of the patent details different methods of mounting or stacking battery cells, plus specifics about alleviating the stresses this causes on the battery material. This could mean getting away from the familiar rectangular battery, and Apple has already exploited the idea of stackable batteries in 2015's MacBook.

Chiefly, though, this patent is concerned with the "operation of a flexible battery integrated within [a] flexible display."

"[The] flexible battery can be distributed along all four sides of [a] flexible display," it says. "For example, [the battery management unit] BMU and main logic board could both be packaged within a housing into which... is configured to retract by a retraction mechanism that results in flexible display being wound around a cylindrical member."

This is the patent's most direct reference to a rolled-up display. Apple's patent describes multiple ways of creating flexible batteries, and it is all concerned with how many different types of display device can be created.

Detail from the patent illustrating one example of battery cells on a flexible mounting
Detail from the patent illustrating one example of battery cells on a flexible mounting


The patent is credited to exclusively Jiang Ai, who is also listed on the team responsible for a previous patent concerning a folding iPhone display with a more robust bend radius.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,036member
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
  • Reply 2 of 14
    fred1fred1 Posts: 935member
    Sorry, but I’ve never understood the need for a foldable screen. Just put two screens together on a barely noticeable hinge. The same now with foldable batteries. Why not two batteries connected by something foldable?  Trying to understand. . .
  • Reply 3 of 14
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,617member
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    That was my thought exactly. Think of all the times we’ve seen catastrophic battery failures caused by bending stress on a Li ion battery... just have 2 separate batteries and a ribbon cable through the hinge.

    I’m pretty sure this is another case of Apple filing the patent just to have the patent. The headline “Apple planning to use...” is misleading and not supported in the article.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,965member
    MplsP said:
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    That was my thought exactly. Think of all the times we’ve seen catastrophic battery failures caused by bending stress on a Li ion battery... just have 2 separate batteries and a ribbon cable through the hinge.

    I’m pretty sure this is another case of Apple filing the patent just to have the patent. The headline “Apple planning to use...” is misleading and not supported in the article.

    That's what the drawing shows. Smaller cells on a flexible mount.
    StrangeDaysbageljoeyfastasleep
  • Reply 5 of 14
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,965member
    fred1 said:
    Sorry, but I’ve never understood the need for a foldable screen. Just put two screens together on a barely noticeable hinge. The same now with foldable batteries. Why not two batteries connected by something foldable?  Trying to understand. . .

    There could be many other uses for a flexible battery besides a phone. Maybe put the Watch battery in a strap and be able to make the Watch thinner. Who knows?
    Either way, this just shows that Apple is addressing the challenges with a foldable or flexible device. Doesn't necessarily mean it will result directly in a foldable phone.
    StrangeDaysredraider11GeorgeBMacfastasleep
  • Reply 6 of 14
    fred1 said:
    Sorry, but I’ve never understood the need for a foldable screen. Just put two screens together on a barely noticeable hinge. The same now with foldable batteries. Why not two batteries connected by something foldable?  Trying to understand. . .
    Or just use one device with one screen because there is nothing wrong with it the way it is.
    fred1
  • Reply 7 of 14
    Samsung will take this as reason to double down on their foldable devices that no one ever asked for disaster.

    Meanwhile Apple is probably just trying to make safer batteries that can flex to avoid damage due to swelling/heat.
  • Reply 8 of 14
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,991member
    MplsP said:
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    That was my thought exactly. Think of all the times we’ve seen catastrophic battery failures caused by bending stress on a Li ion battery... just have 2 separate batteries and a ribbon cable through the hinge.

    I’m pretty sure this is another case of Apple filing the patent just to have the patent. The headline “Apple planning to use...” is misleading and not supported in the article.
    Guess what? Technology marches on. Some time ago I watched a video by David Pogue about the lithium ion battery. This guy had a new type of Li-ion battery in his lab that used a different electrolyte. You can drive nails through this battery and it doesn’t blow up. Not only that but it continues to output power. I’m sure Apple has access to a lot of the latest research in batteries that are still in the lab. They may even be funding some of that research. A safe, long lasting, powerful battery is the Holy Grail right now and the one who comes up with it will be wealthy beyond avarice. 


    edited April 2020 tmay2old4funBeatsjony0
  • Reply 9 of 14
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,921member
    In before some iKnockoff moron claims Apple is copying some iWannabe company even though Apple;s patents are old as sh**. This foldable display may happen and it may be a whole new invention, not an iPhone.


    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.

    fred1 said:
    Sorry, but I’ve never understood the need for a foldable screen. Just put two screens together on a barely noticeable hinge. The same now with foldable batteries. Why not two batteries connected by something foldable?  Trying to understand. . .

    MplsP said:
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    That was my thought exactly. Think of all the times we’ve seen catastrophic battery failures caused by bending stress on a Li ion battery... just have 2 separate batteries and a ribbon cable through the hinge.

    I’m pretty sure this is another case of Apple filing the patent just to have the patent. The headline “Apple planning to use...” is misleading and not supported in the article.

    iPhone was a bad idea because your fingers would accidentally touch icons, it was too big and there was no keyboard.

    iPad was dumb because it was just a giant iPod touch.

    Apple Watch wouldn't catch on because my phone can do those things.

    etc. etc.
  • Reply 10 of 14
    samrodsamrod Posts: 48unconfirmed, member
    I think those of you suggesting multiple batteries attached with a cable rather than one battery folding in the middle are conflating batteries with cells. Benjamin Franklin used the term "battery" to described a series of capacitors linked together to give a higher charge (similar to artillery battery). Since then, "battery" has been used to described one or more electrochemical cells working together in a single housing. I was curious if Apple's patent is trying to achieve a foldable battery or actual foldable cell. Seems like it describes a foldable battery with cells arranged parallel to the fold to move without warping. The included figure clearly shows this: the cells (102) don't bend themselves, but reorient as their container (107) bends. But the fear of explosive batteries is unfounded. Millions pour gallons of explosive fuel in their cars to ignite sequentially by spark plugs. Where's the concern of the thousands of actual explosions going on inside your car?
    fastasleep
  • Reply 11 of 14
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,083member
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    /massive eyeroll

    I love these patent threads for these myopic posts alone. 
  • Reply 12 of 14
    fred1fred1 Posts: 935member
    fred1 said:
    Sorry, but I’ve never understood the need for a foldable screen. Just put two screens together on a barely noticeable hinge. The same now with foldable batteries. Why not two batteries connected by something foldable?  Trying to understand. . .
    Or just use one device with one screen because there is nothing wrong with it the way it is.
    Excellent idea. 
  • Reply 13 of 14
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,036member
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    /massive eyeroll

    I love these patent threads for these myopic posts alone. 
    How does it sounds like a good idea to you?  Extra space between battery cells, thereby either increasing the volume of the phone, or decreasing the battery size, is that a good idea?  Introducing physical complexity to components that may become volatile if they get physically breached, is that a good idea?

    Is having a folding phone such a good idea that it's worth either of those two things?

    On the face of it, it doesn't sound like a good idea.  Apple obviously may have something different in mind, or somme other trade off that justifies the downsides, but that should go without saying, we won't know that until there's a product.  In that respect, we're all myopic, so save your eyerolls please.
    edited April 2020
  • Reply 14 of 14
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,083member
    crowley said:
    crowley said:
    Ooh that does not sound like a good idea.
    /massive eyeroll

    I love these patent threads for these myopic posts alone. 
    How does it sounds like a good idea to you?  Extra space between battery cells, thereby either increasing the volume of the phone, or decreasing the battery size, is that a good idea?  Introducing physical complexity to components that may become volatile if they get physically breached, is that a good idea?

    Is having a folding phone such a good idea that it's worth either of those two things?

    On the face of it, it doesn't sound like a good idea.  Apple obviously may have something different in mind, or somme other trade off that justifies the downsides, but that should go without saying, we won't know that until there's a product.  In that respect, we're all myopic, so save your eyerolls please.
    If you think Apple is designing something that's going to fail and explode easily, or that this is only related to foldable phones, then I don't know what to tell you. You answered your own question with "Apple obviously may have something different in mind".
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