An Australian company is developing an innovative power source to generate electrical energy from moisture in the air or skin surface and has just announced breakthroughs that could change the wearables and battery markets. Strategic Elements Ltd, listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, said last week that its Energy Ink technology – a liquid ink based on graphene oxide – demonstrated for the first time an ultra-stable output voltage from moisture.
Energy Ink, a technology developed through collaboration with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), targets the multi-billion dollar Electronic Skin Patch market. Energy Ink has the potential to enable batteries to harvest electrical energy from the humidity in the air, potentially removing the need for manual charging or wired powered, Strategic Elements says. The printed Energy Ink is just 200 microns thick—as thick as two pieces of paper.
The achievement of ultra-stable output voltage from moisture could be an essential step towards the development of a new battery technology because stable output voltages are crucial for powering the sensitive electronic circuits contained in many electronic devices, enabling them to perform more reliably and without error, according to the company.
Energy Ink proposes to generate energy from moisture, a readily available green source, which could change how wearable electronic devices work.
The technology, if further proved and scaled, could be revolutionary because it is being designed to work like no other form of electrical energy generation currently available. With Energy Ink, water molecules in the air are absorbed into a layer of nano-engineered ink. Ions separate and migrate from high to low concentration, creating an electrical current flow.
Electronic Skin Patch Testing
To test the Energy Ink technology, the company and UNSW conducted experiments by simulating the load of a leading Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) skin patch.
As a result, “An ultra-stable, highly controlled output voltage demonstrated the stability to power sensitive digital electronics such as CPUs, memory and wireless communications,” Strategic Elements said.
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The testing showed that Energy Ink cells can supply energy at twice the rate consumed by a leading CGM skin patch over 7 days.
The new tech could be a game-changer in the rapidly growing skin patch business due to its potential advantages of being as inconspicuous as possible, provide more advanced sensing, keep costs low, and be environmentally friendly, according to the company.
The next phase of work in the Electronic Skin Patch segment is to optimize the ink and printing capability of the cell structure and successfully print batteries into alternative shapes and patterns, it noted.
Despite the recent breakthroughs, Strategic Elements cautioned last week that the Energy Ink technology is still in early development, “and the fundamental upper limit of aspects such as maximum power output, duration and energy density remains unknown.”
Energy Ink Technology Set to Exceed The Power Density Of Solar
This week, Strategic Elements announced that its technology is on track to exceed the power density of solar technology due to technical breakthroughs in the process of converting moisture into electrical energy.
So far, no renewable technology has come close to exceeding solar’s power density, which is the measure of how much power can be generated from a given space.
Breakthroughs in moisture-to-energy conversion are now being engineered into an Energy Ink cell, designed for renewable energy generation, with a power density that exceeds solar technology, Strategic Elements said this week.
The Energy Ink cell currently developed and tested is designed for potential use in the wearables market.
The research team and the company have ambitions to expand the use of the moisture-to-energy potential to other areas of electronic devices.
So the team is also seeking to develop a different type of cell based on the same moisture-to-energy technology to customize it specifically for use in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector. The Australian government is currently considering support for the project, which, if funding is obtained, could allow Strategic Elements to begin a significant development program next month.
“We are very keen to work with the Strategic Elements team and potential end users of the Energy Ink to leverage the great potential of moisture-enabled power generation in applications from wearable electronics to IoT sensors and now to larger-scale electricity generation,” said Prof. Dewei Chu, the key inventor and head of the UNSW team.
Strategic Elements Ltd Managing Director Charles Murphy said, “It is obvious that the potential rewards from the successful development of larger-scale Energy Ink systems are immense. However, it should also be recognised that the technology is under development and still has risks.”
“Success in the short-term development pathway outlined will provide a strong, early indication of the technology's potential to scale up and power certain larger-scale systems,” Murphy noted.
Although development is still in early stages, the technology could result in the possible commercialization of “an electronics material for a wide range of end uses in wearable electronics, significant advances in self-powered, environmentally friendly devices,” according to Strategic Elements.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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