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Printing Flexible Lithium-Ion Batteries 18

ckwu writes: The designs of pacemakers, watches, and other wearable gadgets have to be tailored around existing battery shapes, such as cylinders, coin cells, and rectangles. But a team of researchers hopes their fully printable, flexible lithium-ion batteries will one day free designers from these constraints. Battery shapes are now limited because of the need to contain liquid electrolytes. Two years ago, the researchers designed a printable, solid-state electrolyte composed of alumina nanoparticles and lithium combined with polymer that can be cured by ultraviolet light. In this latest work, they used a stencil printing technique to print full battery cells with the electrolyte and other printable materials for the electrodes. They printed batteries on paper and the curved surface of a glass mug. These printed Li-ion batteries can power small LEDs but still need a lot of improvements because they don't last long before needing recharging.
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Printing Flexible Lithium-Ion Batteries

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  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Thursday August 13, 2015 @01:27PM (#50310969)

    Battery shapes are now limited because of the need to contain liquid electrolytes.

    You know what else likes electrolytes? Plants! They crave it!

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Thursday August 13, 2015 @01:44PM (#50311083) Homepage Journal

    A friend of mine was looking into buying/managing a lithium cell factory.

    He mentioned that one limiting problem with big packs (ie - electric vehicles) is heat dissipation. He opined that if you could make "shaped" cells you could put many of them in the interstitial spaces in a vehicle, such as between roof panels and in the columns that hold the windshield and in the quarter panels and so on.

    (Okay, maybe not the roof because that gets hot in the summer sun, but you get the idea...)

    The theory being that a large, flat battery has better heat dissipation than a rolled-up-newspaper cell packed snugly with many others.

    So maybe you could put shaped batteries inside a drone frame, or a curved battery as part of a watch band.

    Anyone know more about this? It'd be an interesting innovation to be able to get shaped batteries, in the same way one can get shaped plastic extruded pieces.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      Another problem is that lithium batteries catch fire if physically damaged. With how lawsuit-happy the US is, where even 9mm ammo says, "DO NOT EAT" on the box, I bet someone would start gnawing on a watch band, punch through the battery's enclosure, get burned, sue, and score a big win in the courts.

      • Have there been many lawsuits from people being burned by gasoline? It is after all much more flammable than Li-Ion.

        • Have there been many lawsuits from people being burned by gasoline? It is after all much more flammable than Li-Ion.

          A DuckDuckGo search shows therre are many gasoline fire lawsuits indeed.

          But we're in love with gasoline - we're just used to it.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday August 13, 2015 @02:10PM (#50311215) Homepage Journal

      He mentioned that one limiting problem with big packs (ie - electric vehicles) is heat dissipation. He opined that if you could make "shaped" cells you could put many of them in the interstitial spaces in a vehicle, [...] So maybe you could put shaped batteries inside a drone frame, or a curved battery as part of a watch band. Anyone know more about this?

      I know for sure that you wouldn't put the batteries into the empty spaces in the unibody, because you would compromise crash safety and you'd also create a maintenance nightmare. You also want to centralize the mass in the center of the vehicle as much as possible for a variety of reasons, spreading it out throughout the body would be the opposite of that.

      The idea of making watch band batteries is a good one. The idea of putting batteries into the empty spaces of the car's body is not.

      • by mlts ( 1038732 )

        Nail, head hit. The one use I can see for flexible lithium cells in this case would be to shape them to allow for liquid cooling, or for liquid heating, since lithium batteries cannot be used if their temperature is too low. Of course, if there issues with the liquid flowing, there need to be failsafes for that.

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Thursday August 13, 2015 @02:01PM (#50311159)
    I can't wait for some hipster to make a wide-collar shirt out of this and watch them burst into flames when they accidentally short the cell putting their aviator glasses in their pocket. Should make good viewing on Vine.
    • I can't wait for some hipster to make a wide-collar shirt out of this and watch them burst into flames when they accidentally short the cell putting their aviator glasses in their pocket. Should make good viewing on Vine.

      Well, that was friggin' strange! Funny though. A Hipster has been dispatched to your location so you don't have to wait any longer.

  • Who Knew?

    Battery shapes are now limited because of the need to contain liquid electrolytes.

    Obviously there must be more precise reason than 'cuz-its-a-liquid, last I checked Liquids will assume any shape and quite naturally.

  • > gadgets have to be tailored around existing battery shapes, such as cylinders, coin cells, and rectangles.

    That's what lithium-polymer batteries are for, they can be made in any shape.

    Also, their example was a coffee mug. If you want a battery on a coffee mug, a disk shape on the bottom is already a perfect fit. (A large coin cell.). There aren't that many applications which won't fit any of rectangles, disks, or cylinders, or a grouping of one of those shapes.

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Thursday August 13, 2015 @05:44PM (#50312653)
    More devices with batteries that either can't be replaced, or by the time they wear out replacements are no longer available.
  • ... I know I know, but with the idea of everyone driving their home on large battery banks and our cars on large battery banks... gaining some logistical independence on the issue might be a good idea especially when the damn batteries are expensive, wear out quickly, etc.

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