Electronic Components

The importance of batteries to the future of electronics

A brief history

Batteries were first invented long before electricity was even discovered in the 1700s. Around the 1900s the first iterations of what would become modern batteries began to appear. Since then, the tech going into them has improved dramatically, and other battery types are also in development.

Commonly used battery types

Lithium batteries are currently the most widely used type. These are the most common for consumers to purchase, and come in AA, AAA, or 9V sizes. The cheaper alternative in commercial sizes is alkaline batteries. Both types are disposable, but lithium ones last much longer.

Silver oxide batteries usually come in button form, the kind that are used for watches and smaller devices. Silver is an expensive material to use, hence why it’s only used for these smaller-size batteries. For hearing aids, the battery of choice is zinc air. These react with the air, so require a small tab to be removed for them to function.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel-metal hydride are just a couple of the other battery types available on the market. Another ubiquitous kind of battery is the Lithium-ion (Li-ion). These are in most of your gadgets: phones, laptops, and other portable electronic devices.

Thanks to its low maintenance and high energy density it is usually chosen over other types of batteries like nickel-cadmium.

The rise of EVs and batteries

Li-ion batteries are commonly used in Electronic Vehicles (EVs) too. As the market for EVs increases at an exponential rate, the low maintenance li-ion batteries are a favourite among manufacturers. Companies predict li-ions will be the dominant technology for the foreseeable future, and the price was falling until last year.

NCM, made up of Lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, and NCA (nickel, cobalt and aluminium) are two current alternatives for Li-ion batteries.

But now, Lithium prices are increasing, and so are the prices of cobalt. Since Li-ion batteries and their alternatives have both elements included, the search is on for a cost-friendly environmentally conscious replacement.

One alternative that seems to be rising to the surface is the sodium-ion battery (Na-ion). As one of the most abundant elements on earth it is significantly cheaper and is easy to extract. Na-ion batteries can also be fully discharged, so there is no risk associated with transporting them.

Return of LFP

But Na-ion is not the only tech on the rise. Some EV companies have started using cobalt-free iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, and are planning on increasing this amount going forward. The reason behind the usage could be to avoid the use of nickel and cobalt while there are supply issues.

LFP batteries first came about in the mid-90s, however early iterations were difficult to charge and had heat issues. Disposal was also an issue, which meant in the early years these types weren’t frequently used.

Efficiency is a sticking point when compared to li-ion, but they have improved enough for use in shorter-range vehicles.

Battery tech for the future

There are many different types of battery tech currently in development. This may end up being essential thanks to the finite nature of some materials currently used.

Some types also require lithium, like the new generation li-ion and lithium-sulfur batteries. Others, however, do not require lithium. Other varieties like zinc-manganese oxide, organosilicon electrolyte, gold nanowire gel and TankTwo String Cell batteries are also potential future technologies.

The need for high power density and longevity will only increase in the future as EVs become more widespread. Eventually irreplaceable materials could also become scarce. It is predicted that by the end of the decade many more battery plants will open to accommodate this.

Shipping costs are also an issue, so reducing the need for exports, and avoiding reliance on other countries, is imperative.


This blog is purely informational and is in no way intended to advise on battery types.

Electronic Components

Electronic Components of a hearing aid

Hearing aids are an essential device that can help those with hearing loss to experience sound. The gadget comes in an analogue or digital format, with both using electronic components to amplify sound for the user.

Main components

Both types of hearing aid, analogue and digital, contain semiconductors for the conversion of sound waves to a different medium, and then back to amplified sound waves.

The main components of a hearing aid are the battery, microphone, amplifier, receiver, and digital signal processor or mini-chip.

The battery, unsurprisingly, is the power source of the device. Depending on the type of hearing aid it can be a disposable one or a rechargeable one.

The microphone can be directional, which means it can only pick up sound from a certain direction, which is in front of the hearing aid user. The alternative, omnidirectional microphones, can detect sound coming from all angles.

The amplifier receives signals from the microphone and amplifies it to different levels depending on the user’s hearing.

The receiver gets signals from the amplifier and converts them back into sound signals.

The digital signal processor, also called a mini-chip, is what’s responsible for all of the processes within the hearing aid. The heart of your hearing, if you will.

Chip shortages

As with all industries, hearing aids were affected by the chip shortages caused by the pandemic and increased demand for chips.

US manufacturers were also negatively impacted by Storm Ida in 2021, and other manufacturers globally reported that orders would take longer to fulfil than in previous years.

However, despite the obstacles the hearing aid industry faced thanks to covid, it has done a remarkable job of recovering compared to some industries, which are still struggling to meet demand even now.

Digital hearing aid advantages

As technology has improved over the years, traditional analogue hearing aids have slowly been replaced by digital versions. Analogue devices would convert the sound waves into electrical signals,  that would then be amplified and transmitted to the user. This type of hearing aid, while great for its time, was not the most authentic hearing experience for its users.

The newer digital hearing aid instead converts the signals into numerical codes before amplifying them to different levels and to different pitches depending on the information attached to the numerical signals.

Digital aids can be adjusted more closely to a user’s needs, too, because there is more flexibility within the components within. They often have Bluetooth capabilities too, being able to connect to phones and TVs. There will, however, be an additional cost that comes with the increased complexity and range of abilities.