You might have noticed that the batteries that power your laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices come in cylindrical or rectangular shapes.
These are known as lithium-ion batteries, a type of batteries that can only be made in specific shapes and sizes.
However, scientists at Duke University have developed a method of 3D printing the Lithium-ion battery thus enabling the battery to be made in any shape.
If the battery is available in any shape, it means you do not have to bear with the conventional shape and size of your smartphone or any electronic device for that matter. Those can be available in different shapes and sizes too.
With this development, the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will get more options regarding the space and design of the device, allowing them to get creative with their ideas.
Practicality of the Idea
The idea of being able to 3D print the entire device exists in theory for now. There are a lot of hurdles that still need to be overcome. For one, 3D printing involves polymers, like poly (lactic acid) (PLA), that are not ionic conductors, thus becoming a hiccup in 3D printing.
To tackle this, the researchers infused the PLA with an electrolyte solution that increased its conductivity. Along with that, they also incorporated multi-walled carbon nanotubes or graphene into the cathode and anode to boost the electrical conductivity of the battery.
Proof of Concept
For a demonstration of the potential of the battery, the researchers 3D printed the lithium-ion battery in the shape of the bangle bracelet. This bangle battery had the potential to power a green LED for one minute.
The researchers have stated that the first generation 3D printed battery’s capacity is lower by two orders of magnitude than that of the commercial batteries, which makes it inadequate for practical use.
However, the team claims to have several ideas to enhance the 3-D printed battery’s capacity like using 3D-printable pastes as an alternative to the PLA-based material.