3D Printing Helps Batteries Break The Mold

By replacing lithium ions with zinc ions and relying on 3D printing, researchers can now fabricate rechargeable batteries in a range of shapes and sizes.

AsianScientist (Jan. 3, 2019) – In a study published in ACS Nano, scientists in South Korea and the US have used 3D printing to manufacture batteries of various shapes and sizes.

Flexible, wireless electronic devices are rapidly emerging, and many have gone on to become commercial products. However, the batteries contained in these devices are either spherical or rectangular structures, which results in inefficient use of space.

To overcome shape restrictions, Professor Kim Il-Doo at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea, in collaboration with Professor Jennifer A. Lewis at Harvard University, US, devised a method to 3D print ring-shaped, H-shaped and U-shaped batteries. Instead of lithium ions, their batteries use zinc ions to carry charge, making them safer and more environmentally friendly than existing rechargeable batteries.

“Zinc-ion batteries employing aqueous electrolytes have the [added] advantage of fabrication under ambient conditions, so it is easy to create customized battery packs using 3D printing,” said Kim.

To fabricate a stable cathode that allows the battery to be charged and discharged repeatedly, the researchers used an electrospinning process to uniformly coat electrochemically-active polyaniline—a conductive polymer—onto the surface of carbon. Their cathode exhibited very fast charging speeds, allowing the batteries to reach 50 percent of maximal charge in two minutes.

Kim and Lewis then worked with Dr. Choi Youngmin at the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology to incorporate their 3D-printed batteries into small-scale wearable electronic devices, such as wearable light sensor rings.

“3D-printed batteries can be easily applied in niche applications such as wearables, miniaturized micro-robots, implantable medical devices or microelectronic storage devices with unique designs,” said Lewis.

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2018) High-Power Aqueous Zinc-Ion Batteries for Customized Electronic Devices.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Photo: KAIST
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