Soft battery maker Enfucell plans to expand into mainland and US

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am

Finland soft battery developer Enfucell is looking for Euro5 million (HK$61 million) in financing for business expansion in the United States and in China, said chief operating officer Risto Huvila.

The company holds the patent for soft battery technology, developed by Zhang Xiachang, a Shanghai-born Chinese scholar who has studied in the Finnish capital Helsinki since the 1970s.

Soft batteries, which emit low voltage power, are as thin as a piece of paper and are printed on film. Their size and the fact they can be bent and crumpled means they can be embedded in a wider range of products than conventional batteries.

Mr Zhang said applications could include cosmetic masks and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags used to identify luggage at airports. These batteries can supply power for up to a year.

'Cosmetic products such as masks are more effective if the ingredient is placed on the soft battery,' Mr Zhang said.

'It will be absorbed by the human skin more effectively because of the power from the soft battery.

'Our technology is not to replace existing batteries, but to explore new markets where there has been no battery usage before.'

He said the first commercial products would hit the streets as early as next year, with plans for global expansion to ensure factories were close to customers.

'Once we commercially launch our product, we need to set up new production lines,' Mr Zhang said.

'Our initial plant is located in Finland but we could manufacture our soft batteries in the US, Europe and in China.'

Soft battery manufacturing is not considered high tech and production can be ramped up quickly.

'We can have hundreds of millions of metres of battery being produced through the printing press,' Mr Huvila said.

Mr Zhang said the company was planning to open sales offices in the US and China.

'We could explore the possibility of establishing a printing press in China but we need to solve the intellectual property rights issue first,' he said.

Mr Zhang and his partners established Enfucell in 2002 when his team was in the process of researching and developing a biofuel cell battery powered by glucose.

However, the company turned to the development of soft batteries, which are more easily deployed on applications which need battery power.

'Our business started with initial funding of Euro2 million, and half of that was sponsored by the Finnish government's Tekes project,' Mr Zhang said.

Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, is the main government financing organisation for research and technological development in Finland.

Tekes finances industrial research and development projects as well as projects in universities and research institutes. Tekes especially promotes innovative, risk-intensive projects.

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Enfucell holds the patent for soft battery technology

The amount of funds the Finnish company is looking for to expand its business: Euro 5m