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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Being able to 3D print batteries means we can create batteries in all shapes and sizes which will be useful for all our new gadgets.

 

Recently I’ve been reporting on a variety of new battery developments, from polymer batteries that can charge your electric vehicle in seconds, to new types of solar batteries that generate and store solar energy all in one package, and many others. One of the unspoken challenges in creating smaller and smaller devices and gadgets these days, such as wearables and smartphones, is that the batteries can take up a lot of room. After all, cases are often designed around standard battery sizes, and it often creates a lot of wasted space. Now though new research published in ACS Applied Energy Materials shows that it’s possible to 3D print Lithium Ion (LiON) batteries into whatever shape you need. And it could open the door to creating batteries, of all shapes and sizes, which could open up a host of interesting new use cases.

 

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The problem that has stood in the way of 3D printed LiON batteries, at least, until now, is that the polymers traditionally used in this kind of printing aren’t ionic conductors. So the teams goal, led by Christopher Reyes and Benjamin Wiley, from Duke University, was to find a way to print custom sized LiON batteries in a cost effective way using nothing more than a regular 3D printer.

 

In order to make the batteries conductive and get around the problem they infused the Polylactic Acid (PLA) usually used in 3D printing with an electrolyte solution. They then also incorporated graphene and carbon nanotubes into the design of the case, two other emerging technologies that have been shown to boost battery life, to help increase conductivity. And after these design modifications they were then able to 3D print an LED bracelet, complete with custom battery.

 

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It’s important to note though that this research is very preliminary and that the prototype battery was only able to power the bracelet for about 60 seconds. And the team also notes that the capacity of the printed battery is well below commercial standards. But they have ideas for how to improve capacity, and this idea has a lot of promise for the future of small gadgets and tech, as well as opening the door to 3D printing LiON batteries into anything and everything, from smart clothing to the rooves of electric vehicles.

Source: ACS Applied Energy Materials

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of 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.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, 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, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, GEMS, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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