Software Development

Make batteries by printing, says Rensselaer research team


U.S. researchers printed, yes, printed a battery and they're looking to scale up the process to run devices from pacemakers to pickup trucks with batteries printed on a printing press. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's team published a description in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of how they've printed a foldable, rollable, cuttable paper battery a little bigger than a postage stamp that stores enough power to run an LED light.

Printing makes everything from wedding cakes to 3-D plastic models. A printing process adapted to the 20th Century is the heart of every chip fab in the world; without photolithography, the computer you read this with could not be economically made.

How does the experimental battery work? Nanometer-sized carbon nanotubes are the electrodes in the battery. The paper carrier is soaked in ionic liquid electrolytes to conduct the electricity, and that electrolyte could even be blood to power sensors or artificial organs someday.

Paper's long been used as an insulator in capacitors, back to the very earliest electrical experiments, and the economies of printing a one-piece battery are very appealing, as well as this design's ability to serve as a capacitor and deliver quick bursts of energy (for, say, acceleration or cranking an engine starter). Need to run more than an LED? Print more battery sheets and wire them together.

So much for the paperless future.

Yeah, it's a research model, but what's your wager in the anchor pool to guess how long until these arrive at your local hardware store?

5 comments
Tig2
Tig2

I would want to know when they were printed and the "Sell By" date. Cool new tech. I don't see one powering my digital camera... ever. We have to consider how things are made and what can be adapted. That will be the controlling factor to adoption by the public at large.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

In the link to the oher article, it stated that the stamp size paper put out 2.3 volts and could be substituted for a capacitor. Going by this, 2 AA batteries put out 2.4 volts and digi cameras work fine with 2-4 of them. Since this can take the abuse of sharp spikes of power, this could easily work for cameras. But, the article did not mention anything else of value abou the power, like how long it lasts. Does this paper battery last for a few seconds, or a few hours, or forever? This sounds like interesting technology, and battery tech is really in the spotlight these days (for notebooks, cameras, pda's, etc.). Because of this, it may appear sooner than we think. But, there are a lot of 'ifs' involved. There really was not a lot in the article except a bit of hype, without real information. Is this too good to be true? Or is this the next step in better power creation/management?

Peopleunit
Peopleunit

Standard batteries store and release energy through chemical decomposition and exchange of electrons. Super-capacitors, those designed as an energy storage device do so by storing static electricity where the static charge is increased or decreased when charging or using the stored electricity. Two entirely different processes. I would assume these "batteries" are a case of the latter, a super-capacitor of sorts. Albeit, built using unique components (carbon nano-tubes) and process (printing). As for capacity (Don't you just love puns?), that would still depend on the electrolyte (the material that separates the components). The article hints that the battery would use paper as the substrate for the electrolyte. Dry paper would have one set of design limits, paper soaked in oil would present another set of specs, etc. On the other hand, something besides paper could also be used... something with a higher dielectric strength (resistance to internal shorting/sparks within). Other issues include physical shock limits, current/heat restraints in the packaging and component connections, as well as overall size and weight. A well designed capacitor where the input power and the drain on the output remains within its design specifications (protected from lightning strikes/power surges on the input side and with fused outputs) can last for decades without any serious degradation, and not wear out. Initial uses could be anyplace requiring quick recharge times, i.e., regenerative braking systems for electric vehicles. Later uses "might" include a viable means for storing excess electric power from our power plants (load balancing between peak and off-peak), improving their efficiency and service capacity.

K7AAY
K7AAY

How long until this hits the local hardware store, or even the Kwik-E-Mart?

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

how long until I can print them up myself???

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