Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first printed battery that is flexible, stretchable and rechargeable. These zinc batteries could be used to power everything from wearable sensors to solar cells and other kinds of electronics. The work appears in the April 19, 2017 issue of Advanced Energy Materials.
New battery is a significant step toward self-powered stretchable electronics. We expect this technology to pave the way to enhance other forms of energy storage and printable, stretchable electronics, not just for zinc-based batteries but also for Lithium-ion batteries, as well as supercapacitors and photovoltaic cells, said the researchers.
Key to make these printed batteries flexible and stretchable is a hyper-elastic polymer material made from isoprene, one of the main ingredients in rubber, and polystyrene, a resin-like component.
“The substance, known as SIS, allows the batteries to stretch to twice their size, in any direction, without suffering damage”, according to researchers.
The ink used to print the batteries is made of zinc silver oxide mixed with SIS. While zinc batteries have been in use for a long time, they are typically non-rechargeable. The researchers added bismuth oxide to the batteries to make them rechargeable.
The prototype battery developed has about 1/5 the capacity of a rechargeable hearing aid battery. But it is 1/10 as thick, cheaper and uses commercially available materials. It takes two of these batteries to power a 3 Volt LED.
The researchers plan to improve the battery’s performance. Next steps include expanding the use of the technology to different applications, such as solar and fuel cells; and using the battery to power different kinds of electronic devices.
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