Imagine printing off a wristband that charges your smartphone or electric car with cheap supplies from a local hardware store.
That’s the direction materials research is heading at Brunel University London where scientists have become the first to simply and affordably 3D print a flexible, wearable ‘battery’.
The technique opens the way for novel designs for super-efficient, wearable power for phones, electric cars, medical implants like pacemakers and more.
The printer squirts stacks of silicone, glue and gel electrolyte pastes like a layer cake, to make what looks like a clear festival wristband. Sandwiched inside is a supercapacitor, which stores energy like a battery, but on its surface and without chemical reactions.
“This is the first time a flexible supercapacitor including all its components has been produced by 3D printing,” said Milad Areir at Brunel’s Cleaner Electronics Research Group. “The most popular way to produce them is screen printing, but with that you can’t print the frame of the supercapacitor on silicone.”
Researchers in many countries have found new ways to make flexible supercapacitators. But their techniques, which include 3D laser selective melting machines are expensive and use different machines to print different parts.
“Our technique brings it all together into one process with one machine,” said Milad. “It will definitely save time and costs on expensive materials.”
The work, published in Materials Science and Engineering, shows the power wristband can be made using cheap products from a household shop instead of sophisticated expensive metals or semiconductors. What’s more is that they stand up to stress tests without losing power.
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