Ultra thin and ultra flexible batteries made from Graphene could make new types of wearable computing platforms a reality.


Researchers in the UK who were motivated by the problem of how to power the growing number of wearables that are now hitting the market from companies such as Adidas and Under Armour to name but two, have found a new way to create a first of a kind flexible battery that can be printed directly on to any fabric using just a common inkjet printer, and it could open the door to a myriad of new types of flexible wearable computing devices.


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While sensor laden clothing and other wearable gadgets are becoming increasingly popular, albeit at a fairly slow rate, they often still rely on bulky battery packs to power them but this new manufacturing technique, which it can be argued is a different take on piezoelectric self-charging fabrics that generate and store electricity from simple friction, will eliminate batteries once and for all and let the material itself become the power source.


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Nazmul Karim, a fellow at the University of Manchester, who co-authored the research paper on the new battery technology says, “it will open up possibilities of making an environmentally friendly and cost effective smart E-textile that can store energy and monitor human activity and physiological condition at the same time.”

Generally, wearables rely on devices known as supercapacitors to give them charge that act like a battery but that can also be charged quickly to power devices in seconds, and the teams new technology is a solid state flexible supercapacitor ink, based on Graphene Oxide, that can be printed onto any fabric.


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The research was published in the journal 2D Materials. In the paper the team also explain how the printed batteries have great stability because of the “excellent interaction between the ink and textile substrate,” something that’s crucial if the two are to work with each other effectively, and if the technology is pushed even further they say “the idea of a wearable computer might not be too far off.”

“The development of graphene based flexible textile supercapacitor using a simple and scalable printing technique is a significant step towards realising multifunctional next generation wearable E-textiles,” said Dr. Karim.

Graphene oxide can be produced at a relatively low cost in a printable ink-like solution that can then be applied to cotton textiles to create the supercapacitors which become part of the fabric itself.


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“Textiles are some of the most flexible substrates, and for the first time, we printed a stable device that can store energy and be as flexible as cotton. The device is also washable, which makes it practical to use it to power future smart clothes. We believe this work will open the door for printing other types of devices on textile using 2D-materials inks,” added Dr. Amor Abdelkader, also co-author of the paper.

The research paper, titled, Inkjet Printing of Graphene Inks for Wearable Electronic Applications explains in its abstract that “Inkjet printing is one of the most promising techniques for the fabrication of wearable electronics due to number of advantages over conventional manufacturing techniques such as digital and additive patterning, reduction in material waste, deposition of controlled amount of materials and compatibility with various substrates.”

So who knows, perhaps we’ll be printing our own flexible batteries into our clothes in the not too distant future…

Source: The University of Manchester

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Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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