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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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  • I want some, especially if they have a decent capacity.
  • Nice, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @03:31PM (#30416304) Journal
    What's the power density? If you need a dozen phonebooks worth of paper to store 100wH, never mind...

    What's the ink made of? Oil? If so: never mind.

    How fast an you charge it without it bursting into flames?

    If it can charge faster and has equal power density to LiON batteries, and the ink isn't made out of oil, and the entire thing can be built outside of a petroleum context, I think we might have a winner...

    RS

    • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:16PM (#30416728)


      What's the power density? If you need a dozen phonebooks worth of paper to store 100wH, never mind...

      To power a car, sure. If space is ample, or energy requirements are minimal, then this could be very useful.

      What's the ink made of? Oil? If so: never mind.

      Where does this come from? If you think we're going to eliminate oil derived products anytime soon, think again. Oil isn't going away as a feedstock for the chemical industry. If your requirement is that nothing is ever tied to petroleum, just give up now. You won't get very far.

    • by Eternauta3k (680157) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:24PM (#30416812) Homepage Journal

      What's the ink made of? Oil?

      Baby seals

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

      by amRadioHed (463061) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @04:40PM (#30416990)

      The story isn't entirely clear, but it does say "the technique uses special ink made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires". Based on that I would guess the ink may be made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        carbon nanotubes

        What is the method of manufacture for the nanotubes? right now, it's petroleum.

        After that - are we going to char forests to make the carbon for the nanotubes to power the SUV so Joe Palooka can schlep his fat ass down the block for a six pack and a box of smokes?

        And we all know how plentiful silver is... [silverseek.com]

        The problem is lifestyle and expectations and overpopulation. Change any (or more) of those three and you have a big handle on mitigating the collapse.

        RS

        • by daveime (1253762)

          Don't be a fool ...

          Apparently we've got an excess of CO2 lying around at the moment. Can't we just grab the Carbon out of that ? And the spare Oxygen we release means we won't need so many trees anyway, freeing up valuable land for growing McDonalds beefburgers-on-legs.
           

        • 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.

        • by sowth (748135) *

          All we need to do is mine the asteroids. Get on it NASA!

        • 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.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          See, now I don't know whether to Friend you for being a really smart troll, or Foe you for being dumber and more stubborn than an inbred mule with a lobotomy.
        • This may be a longshot.. But I think by far the largest source of easily extractable carbon on the earth at this point is coal, not oil. And we have enough of that for hundreds of years.
      • The story isn't entirely clear, but it does say "the technique uses special ink made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires". Based on that I would guess the ink may be made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires.

        That's definitely worth at least a +3 Funny ... how the hell you got a +5 Insightful out of that is beyond me.

        • Hey now, don't hate the playa, hate the game. I agree with you completely though, I though that was a pretty clear attempt at humor.

    • by dlt074 (548126)

      at least you are applying logic and thought to the situation at hand.

      unlike the mindless hoards flocking to electric/hybrid cars because they are good for Mother Earth, even though the electricity to charge the electric cars mainly comes from hydro carbon based power plants and the hybrid cars have manufacturing processes that cause more harm then the entire life cycle of a Hummer. i for one just want cheap semi clean power.

      better not show this story to any of the fools worried about deforestation in the US

    • by CarpetShark (865376) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @09:19PM (#30418820)

      How fast an you charge it without it bursting into flames?

      With a spear, or on horseback?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by squidfood (149212)
      I think this is one of those ideas that just sounds good on paper.
  • similar principle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @03:32PM (#30416312) Journal

    These paper based batteries appear to function in a very similar fashion to the algae derived cellulose batteries mentioned on Slashdot a while ago. The paper probably acts as a support just as the algae cellulose particles did in the previously mentioned design.

  • I hope I don't have to carry around a copy of "War and Peace" just to power my phone.

  • 'We just haven't tested what happens when you burn it,' one of the researchers quipped."

    Riiiiighht. They're just waiting to patent electric rolling papers.

  • You just need a graphite pencil and a piece of paper. Will a paper battery help build gilligan a radio?- probably not.
    • Paper battery, diode detector made from a piece of quartzite found on the beach and a safety pin, coil from wire on the boat... hey, we've almost got a crystal radio. Now all we need is an earphone.
    • But if you meant a transmitter... all the parts are already on the boat. That's even easier.
  • Cost of silver (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @03:43PM (#30416432)
    How much silver is actually sued in these batteries? Will availability be an issue? Does it work with other conductive materials like copper or aluminum? Intuitively I suspect the problem here will be energy density for the simple reason it is the one thing they did not promise would be awesome. That said with the tesla beating 500km recently these batteries coudl eprform well even if they had half of Li-Ion energy density.
  • fancy ink (Score:5, Funny)

    by trb (8509) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @03:45PM (#30416460)
    Ink made out of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires? That will be almost as expensive as inkjet ink.
    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

        • 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.

          • by peragrin (659227)

            while your correct on the ink jet printers, on the 2 60 month car loans i ahve had in my life, by the time I hit 30 months I am not only on the upside I am easily there. Now in those 30 months I usually make 2-3 extra payments which help. however modern cars not only hold their value longer, but hold together better over time. with minimal maintenance in 5 years you still have a car that can go another 5 years before it can't hold together anymore. A car that was worth it's value some 7.5 years earlier.

            • by causality (777677)

              while your correct on the ink jet printers, on the 2 60 month car loans i ahve had in my life, by the time I hit 30 months I am not only on the upside I am easily there. Now in those 30 months I usually make 2-3 extra payments which help. however modern cars not only hold their value longer, but hold together better over time. with minimal maintenance in 5 years you still have a car that can go another 5 years before it can't hold together anymore. A car that was worth it's value some 7.5 years earlier.

              I appreciate what you're saying, but please note that I said "many car loans" not "all car loans without exception." I generally try to be very, very careful about using words like "all" for just this reason. I mean no offense, but knowing that you're one of those exceptions doesn't really change or add to the point that I was making.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Twinbee (767046)

        Why is laser ink so much cheaper than inkjet?

        • Unsuccessful troll is unsuccessful

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by causality (777677)

          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

          • by Twinbee (767046)

            Okay I suppose my question would then be; why don't we have the reverse situation, where laser printers are cheap, but the toner is expensive, and where inkjet printers are expensive, but where the ink is cheap?

            • by causality (777677)

              Okay I suppose my question would then be; why don't we have the reverse situation, where laser printers are cheap, but the toner is expensive, and where inkjet printers are expensive, but where the ink is cheap?

              On that I can only offer speculation.

              My guess would be that it's because laser printers are usually purchased by people who have a decent volume of printing to do. Such people are not the most casual users of printers and are likely to put some thought into their purchases. Many times, laser printers are favored by businesses, and businesses have accountants and others who are expected to make good purchasing decisions.

              By contrast, most ink-jet printers are aimed at "consumers" and intended for home

              • by beguyld (732494)

                Exactly, those who don't know better and/or have less clout pay more.

                Essentially covered already today:

                Microsoft Invents Price-Gouging the Least Influential [slashdot.org]

            • by sjwt (161428)

              The average consumer has two problems the average bussines dosent.

              1) They are not likly to be printing 10,000 pages a week
              2) They are not likly to be intrested in useing the same printer in 2 years time.

      • by orange47 (1519059)
        no, the sad part is that we need so much of damn printer ink. what happened with that talk about paperless office (years ago)?
        everyone is spoiled by the quality of print (vs monitor).
        hm, in a way expensive ink is good.. to remind people to conserve trees
    • Ink made out of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires? That will be almost as expensive as inkjet ink.

      No doubt that, if these paper batteries are ever used power cars, the manufacturers will practically give the cars away and make up the cost by selling consumables.

  • Wake me up when they make a static electricity battery that I can charge instantly after I walk across the room and touch it.
  • Anyone want a battery shaped like a frog?

    I for one hope this technology isn't going to be made by HP or Lexmark...
  • Just wait until some mad scientist engineers a tree to produce it's own ink and arrange it properly. In Soviet Russia, the tree strikes the lightning! (That's my first Soviet Russia attempt. w00t)

    • In Soviet Russia, the tree strikes the lightning! (That's my first Soviet Russia attempt. w00t)

      Please. Don't ever attempt that again. Ever.

  • The mighty power of science, striking again! Some technologies just seem more *elegant* than others — and this one would be awesome.
  • My dream of origami batteries is closer to realisation!
  • 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.

  • While most of the posts so far have focused on the paper aspect, what's interesting to me is the fact that the batteries can be printed. Assuming that you don't need the paper, this opens up a pretty significant world of possibilities. For example, imagine a solar powered aircraft that has the energy stored in the paint? This would give a pretty significant performance increase due to the lack of need for a standard battery.

    Also, if there's no need for paper, could you use it as a liquid? Pour it int
  • they use carbon and silver. this is like "turning an apple into a battery" when you stick zinc and copper into it.
  • Would be neat if this could be used in combination with e-ink to make a self powered sheets of e-paper.

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

    by Anonymous Coward

    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?

  • Just Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Linker3000 (626634) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:52PM (#30418058) Journal

    If you tie a length of this paper into a Möbius strip, do you get an infinite power source - or just AC?

  • Now we'll have libraries with "knowledge is power" posters everywhere.

    Guy 1: Hey Joe, how many volts you need to run that there dishwasher?
    Guy 2 (named Joe, apparently): I reckon three Libraries of Congress oughta do it.

  • Burning test (Score:2, Insightful)

    by C R Johnson (141)

    My guess is there will be some particularly nasty smoke when they do get around to testing it by burning.

    Thousands of carbon naontubes wafting away contaminating the room, furnishings, clothes, your child's fluffy toys doesn't seem like a good idea.

    I sure as heck don't want to be subject to inhaling carbon nanotubes. Not even one.

    • What's so special about carbon nanotubes? You're going to inhale much more carbon just driving a few miles to work in moderate traffic. Heaven forbid you spend an evening sitting beside a campfire with a few friends.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by klui (457783)
        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.
        • I'm willing to entertain this if you can show some medical documentation that specifically discusses this example. I believe the quantity of carbon we're talking about here is low enough the body's natural processes will remove it; we inhale large volumes of stuff every day that makes it past lung filtration without any long term ill effects. That aside, I haven't seen anything that indicates an immunological or otherwise negative reaction to this carbon versus carbon ingested from other sources.
  • 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.

    A few more tests and it might even be suitable for use on paper currency, and suddenly the paranoid fears of having tracking devices in every paper bill could become a reality (starting with $100, $50, and $20 bills).

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