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Researchers Create Batteries that can be Painted onto Virtually Any Surface

One of the biggest problems with batteries is the weight and bulky nature of their packaging. It is the major limiting factors for electric vehicles. Several years ago, to overcome this problem, scientists started researching ultra-thin batteries which would be able to hold the same charge but in a much smaller space. In 2009 researchers from the University of Stanford announced that they had created a battery out of a single piece of plain copier paper by using carbon nanotubes to store energy and generate electricity.

The announcement of such a thin battery led some to predict that one day someone would invent printable battery technology.

That day has arrived.

A team at Rice University has made a battery from paint. They created a lithium ion battery which they are able to paint onto virtually any surface.

In tests they combined the battery with a small solar cell and found that the system worked as a perfect energy generating unit. In one test the batteries were even able to power light-emitting diodes that spelled out "RICE" for six hours, with a steady 2.4 volts.

Neelam Singh, the team leader, said that she can already imagine integrating paintable battery technology with paintable solar cells.

They have already filed for a patent, and are now looking to use the technology to create batteries that can be connected together like LEGO and attached to anything.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com


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  • Gary Johnson on September 25 2012 said:
    Printed batteries have been around quite some time--at least 10 years. See www.bluesparktechologies.com, the leader in disposable printed power sources. They are a technical spin -out of Energizer. They have commercialized carbon-zinc technology. Imprint Energy, a more recent Stanford University spin-out, has developed a printable, rechargeable version of carbon-zinc. Solicore has a lithium-based technology to create thin, flexible, rechargeable batteries.

    The formulation for "painting" sounds similar to printing, except that would seem to imply that the resolution is lower and that an enclosure isn't required. If the absence of an enclosure is the case with "painted" batteries, that could be a significant economic advantage over approaches requiring encapsulation. Lithium based technologies typically require more secure sealing than those that use an aqueous electrolyte, such as carbon-zinc, so creating a lithium electrochemical system that operates exposed to air would be a real breakthrough.

    The question of disposability vs rechargeability often arises. Rechargeability requires some for energy harvesting, which adds to the cost and complexity of the system. So, for the lowest cost applications for printed electronics (promotional items, one time use RFID and sensor labels, etc.) disposability and "greeness" are critical issues, leaning the value proposition towards C-Zn. Many other apps, however, have value in long life and rechargeability becomes a more important feature. Both have their places.

    Batteries are critical to printed electronics and there now are commercially available power source choices that can support the cost, performance, and form factor objectives of systems developers.

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