Tiny, 3D-Printed Batteries Power New League of Small Devices
June 19, 2013 1:37 PM
They could be used for medical and communication gadgets
Finding batteries that are small enough to power tiny electronic devices developed in recent years has been a challenge, but a new study has created a 3D solution.
Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- led by Jennifer Lewis, Ph.D., the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) -- have
used 3D printing
to create lithium-ion batteries smaller than the width of a human hair.
3D printing consists of "inks" coming out of the printer as a moldable material -- layer by layer -- and quickly hardening into their end forms. With this particular study, it was a bit more difficult because on top of these two requirements, the end result had to have functional anodes and cathodes from the printing process.
To do this, the team used an ink with nanoparticles of one lithium metal oxide compound for the anode and an ink from nanoparticles of another for the cathode. The inks were placed on teeth of two gold combs, which resulted in tightly interlaced layers of anodes and cathodes to form a full stack. From there, the electrodes were placed into a container of electrolyte solution.
The end result was
a tiny battery
about the size of a grain of sand. It's capable of delivering power and holding a charge comparable to that of commercial batteries. It can also pack a lot of energy.
Small devices, such as medical implants, usually need a battery the size of the device itself in order to receive enough power. This was remedied with thin films of solid materials for electrode production, but while they defeated the size problem, they didn't pack enough energy to power the device.
The new, 3D printed battery could be a great solution for future medical and communication devices that were once too small to be powered correctly.
"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet. A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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