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Power Hardware Science

Nanotech Ink Turns Paper Into a Low-Cost Battery 129

Posted by kdawson
from the power-your-wallet dept.
jangel writes "Stanford University researchers have demonstrated a way to turn ordinary paper into a battery, which may be crumpled or pressed into any form. It's said the technology promises greater durability, higher efficiency, and faster energy transfer than traditional batteries. The technique uses special ink made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires. Thanks to the small diameters of these materials, the ink sticks strongly to the fibrous paper, allowing the battery to be extremely durable. The paper battery could last through 40,000 charge-discharge cycles — at least an order of magnitude more than lithium batteries. According to the researchers, the paper batteries will be low-cost, may be crumpled or folded, and can even be soaked in acidic or basic solutions, yet their performance does not degrade. 'We just haven't tested what happens when you burn it,' one of the researchers quipped." This is the same Stanford research team, lead by Yi Cui, whose work with nanotechnology for battery applications we have discussed before. We've also delved into alternate routes to the holy grail of the ultra-thin battery.
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Nanotech Ink Turns Paper Into a Low-Cost Battery

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  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @03:51PM (#30416518)
    According to the abstract it is 30-47 Wh/kg as compared to 160 Wh/kg for Li-ion. So it is a factor 3 short of Li-Ion. Still not bad for such a new tech. With some optimizations it might actually stand a chance to replace Li-Ion.
  • Re:fancy ink (Score:5, Informative)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:03PM (#30416636) Journal

    At roughly 2,000$/liter inkjet ink is actually within an order of magnitude (25$/g) of the cost of pure carbon nanotubes. Given the rate at which the cost of nanotubes has been falling over the years and the fact that this ink probably won't be more than ~10-20% nanotubes by volume (my guess) it would be certainly possible that mass scale production could bring the cost down well below that of printer ink. Sad isn't it?

  • Re:fancy ink (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:18PM (#30416752)

    You're mixing up "cost" with "price".

    The "cost" to manufacture and distribute printer ink and printer cartridges is very low. It's the artificially-high "price" of printer cartridges for consumers that's the problem.

    If most consumers today weren't so stupid and just stopped buying printer ink at the current prices, it'd drop in price quite quickly. Even at just 25% of the current price, the manufacturers would still be making huge profit margins.

  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:21PM (#30416786)
    That's comparing apples and oranges though. The value of 30-47 Wh/kg is for a supercapacitor made using the conductive paper, not for a battery. The article itself keeps using the word "battery" (and so does the Stanford release it's based on), but the abstract only offers that "this conductive paper can be used as an excellent lightweight current collector in lithium-ion batteries to replace the existing metallic counterparts."
  • by dtmos (447842) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:32PM (#30416892)

    Keep in mind that ultra-thin, printed, "paper" batteries (usually printed on cellulose, or a thin polymer film for added mechanical strength, although paper itself can be done) have been commercially available for a decade -- see Power Paper [powerpaper.com] and Blue Spark Technologies [bluesparkt...logies.com] as just two examples.

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:44PM (#30417028) Homepage
    Its about the same as lead-acid

    It's good enough to power short-medium range electric cars without the short lifetime of lead acid batteries.
  • by formfeed (703859) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:45PM (#30417038)
    they use carbon and silver. this is like "turning an apple into a battery" when you stick zinc and copper into it.
  • Re:fancy ink (Score:5, Informative)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:52PM (#30417120)

    You're mixing up "cost" with "price".

    The "cost" to manufacture and distribute printer ink and printer cartridges is very low. It's the artificially-high "price" of printer cartridges for consumers that's the problem.

    If most consumers today weren't so stupid and just stopped buying printer ink at the current prices, it'd drop in price quite quickly. Even at just 25% of the current price, the manufacturers would still be making huge profit margins.

    The ink-jet printers are sold at a very low price, one that is not very profitable (if at all) for the manufacturer in isolation. It's not in isolation, however, because they make that money back by selling the consumable ink at a high mark-up. Effectively, the customer is paying a lower price up-front in exchange for an overall higher price over time. The printer companies are counting on the customer to be enticed by the initial low price without considering the overall deal, which would require some thought. Like many companies that assume the thoughtlessness of their customers, this has worked out well for them, unfortunately.

    The same principle is in effect for many car loans. I often see car commercials that advertise a vehicle but either do not specify the total price or the total price is de-emphasized. What is emphasized is the monthly payment, and usually for a 60-month loan. A car loan with such a long duration is a great way to end up upside-down on the vehicle (owe more money than it is worth). It also means that the total price you pay for the vehicle is significantly higher than either the list price or a loan with a more reasonable duration. But people who don't consider these things see a low monthly payment and make their decision on this basis alone.

    In both cases, the customer gets somewhat screwed just so they can have their shiny right now. Neither arrangement would appeal to a more financially conscious, savvy customer. Generally the "gotta have it right now" crowd experiences a short-term gain of convenience and a long-term loss of money. It's one reason why the USA has a negative savings index and is generally a culture of debt. Because of this behavior, most car dealerships make a modest profit from selling the vehicles and a large profit from financing them.

  • Re:fancy ink (Score:3, Informative)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:01PM (#30417194)

    Why is laser ink so much cheaper than inkjet?

    Because when you buy a laser printer, you are generally paying the full or actual price for that printer. The consumables therefore tend to more closely reflect the actual cost of producing toner.

    When you buy an ink-jet printer, you are generally paying an artificially low price. The manufacturer then makes their money back by selling artificially expensive consumables. This is an ongoing cost of owning the printer, so the manufacturer continues to enjoy a high profit margin on the ink long after they have already made back the difference between the artificially low price and a more realistic price.

    Microsoft did something like this with the Xbox. The Xbox itself was sold at a loss and the idea was to make back that money by selling games. That's one reason they tried to prevent people from modding the Xbox such that it could be used as a cheap computer, as this would guarantee that they never make back that initial loss on the hardware.

  • Re:Nice, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Goldsmith (561202) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:15PM (#30417782)

    Ok, now you're just making stuff up.

    Who makes nanotubes out of petroleum? I've worked with carbon nanotubes for almost a decade and never heard of anyone seriously doing that. Sure, you can make them from whatever carbon you want, but it's easiest to make them from ethanol. Are we going to char the forests to get that? If you can generate ethanol economically from forests, then you need to tell someone. Is the electricity used to make the nanotubes from petroleum? Maybe, maybe not. The nice thing about electricity is that it doesn't matter how you make it, it works the same. So you can hook Slashdot commenters up to giant hampster wheels to drive your generators if you need to.

    The kids doing this research probably come from farms in rural China, are paid probably 1/3 of what you make and are treated like shit (no probably about that). Yet they're at least trying to solve the big problems in the world. To them, you are Joe Palooka... but for some reason they think the world is worth saving.

  • so many questions... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:28PM (#30417910)

    So many questions would be answered if the actual science [pnas.org] was available.

    Too bad PNAS charges for people to see that. If you find Yi Cui's site at Stanford and look under "Publications," you may find a relevant pdf [stanford.edu].

    *sigh* if only the editors knew how to use the internet... or is it that they don't know science is peer reviewed and not press released?

  • Re:Nice, but... (Score:4, Informative)

    by cathector (972646) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:47PM (#30418020)

    your link to silverseek may have some relevant info, but it also has "sentences" like this:
    Just as gold miners have cast their geologists to the wind and pretty much eliminated their support structures to find and develop new properties, so haven't the copper miners. Now "they're" worried about a supply 'pinch' in 2006.

  • Re:Burning test (Score:3, Informative)

    by klui (457783) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @07:57PM (#30426318)
    Most things in nature are quite large compared to carbon nanotubes. So they are filtered correctly by your lungs. Things that are smaller than what your lungs can handle will just stay there and cause problems.

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