software-defined batteriesI have written before about the fact that the lack of advancement in battery technology is a prime constraint in medical device design.

A new approach developed by Microsoft researchers might enable some progress in this area.

Via an article in MIT Technology Review: today’s batteries typically have a particular chemical design that defines its charge and discharge characteristics – whether it charges quickly and discharges slowly, or whether it provides a large power output but requires a long charging time, for instance.

The approach that the Microsoft researchers have developed involves combining different battery technologies and employing software to control and optimize which chemistry is employed at different times, depending on how the battery-powered device is being used at that time. For example, when the device is in an idle state, software would activate the battery chemistry that provides a low power output over a long period. When it is being actively used in a task, a different chemistry would be accessed that provides the level of power discharge required.

Software-defined batteries”, as they are being referred to, could be the advancement that allows medical device design to move into a new era of possibility.