A team based at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana have successfully created lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand using 3D printing technology.
The batteries, which are thinner than human hairs, could supply electricity to tiny devices such as robot insects, medical implants, as well as some inventions which have lingered on lab benches for lack of a battery small enough to fit the device.
Traditionally manufacturers have deposited thin films of solid materials to build the electrodes. However, while these designs were ultra-thin, these solid-state micro-batteries do not pack sufficient energy to power such miniaturized devices.
The scientists realized they could pack more energy if they could create stacks of tightly interlaced, ultrathin electrodes. For this they turned to 3D printing.
To print 3-D electrodes, the researchers, led by Jennifer Lewis of the Harvard University, created an ink for the anode with nanoparticles of one lithium metal oxide compound, and an ink for the cathode from nanoparticles of another. The 3D printer deposited the inks onto the teeth of two gold combs, creating a tightly interlaced stack of anodes and cathodes. Then the researchers packaged the electrodes into a tiny container and filled it with an electrolyte solution to complete the battery.
This image shows the interlaced stack of electrodes that were printed layer by layer to create the working anode and cathode of a microbattery. [Ke Sun, Teng-Sing Wei, Jennifer Lewis, Shen J. Dillon]
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!