Flexible Batteries

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New technological advances in graphene and carbon nanorod production have made possible tiny flexible batteries that are bendable, incredibly thin, and have three times the charge capacity of comparably sized lithium ion packs.  These advances hold great promise for future applications and have the advantages of being:

  • Smaller
  • Lighter
  • More efficient
  • Adaptable

New Research 

Some of the new batteries in development, with funding from the military, are being created on a nanoscale – allowing for billions of battery cells per square inch.  These batteries are being built by using genetically engineered viruses to lay down a template for gold and cobalt oxide nanowires.  Bioengineering technologies such as this will allow for smaller devices and the capacity to mass produce them.  These tiny batteries also have a substantially greater charge capacity than standard lithium ion batteries.

Carbon Nanorods

Carbon nanorods are excellent conductors, but are expensive to produce and difficult to manipulate.  Researchers placed carbon nanorods on each side of a bit of cellulose (paper) with a drop of electrolyte on the paper, each side was then covered with a lithium/aluminum foil.  The result was a lithium ion battery as flexible as a sheet of paper.

A team at the Polytechnic School of Montreal has developed a battery made of thermoplastic layers sandwiched with lithium compounds which can be heated and stretched into long fibers.  These fiber batteries can be woven into clothing and the separate strands of batteries then joined together with conductive threads to produce an output of hundreds of volts, enough to charge a portable electronic device or be used in certain medical applications.

Graphene

A flexible battery made by layering graphene and vanadium oxide developed by a team in Korea is being tested.  Graphene is cheaper to produce than carbon nanotubes, so this may give these batteries an edge in the future market.

Blending Technologies

Piezoelectric materials generate electricity from the squeezing or flexing of crystals or other composite materials.  The merging of piezoelectric materials and flexible batteries will allow for clothing that generates and stores electricity with every move you make.  Researchers are still looking for a way to make these devices totally waterproof to allow for washing, wearing in the rain, and underwater activities.

These advances, along with wireless charging technology, will make the recharging of your phone or other devices as simple as slipping them into your pocket.  Flexible battery technology will also allow for thinner, lighter batteries which can be folded into almost any shape.  Instead of having a bulky box in the back of your phone or ipad, the battery would be molded around the circuitry.

Imagine being able to throw away your phone charger, or to have your iPad charge while you were walking in a mall.  Flexible batteries may make all of this possible.  Several of these emerging battery technologies are also biodegradable.  Considering how many mobile devices the average person owns and uses (phones, iPad, notebook…), having a more efficient and earth friendly power source for all of our gadgets can only be a good thing.