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Ultra-Lightweight, Bendable Batteries, posted in Batteries, Future Energy, Inventions.

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Ultra-Lightweight, Bendable Batteries

News » Energy | Biofuels | Environment | Hydrogen | Solar | Transportation | Wind
December 23rd, 2009 - View Comments

Bendable Batteries Stanford scientists are doing the unbelievable. Who could have thought of ordinary papers as batteries and super capacitors? But Stanford scientists are harnessing nanotechnology to quickly create ultra-lightweight, bendable batteries and super capacitors utilizing everyday paper. They have prepared ink with of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires. Silver nanowires are highly conductive storage device. They are coating the sheet of papers with ink of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires.

Yi Cui is the assistant professor of materials science and engineering. Cui’s work is published in the paper “Highly Conductive Paper for Energy Storage Devices.” It is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He states, “Society really needs a low-cost, high-performance energy storage device, such as batteries and simple supercapacitors.”

What is the difference between battery and capacitor? Batteries and capacitors both store electric charge. But capacitors hold it for a shorter duration than batteries. But, capacitors have an advantage. They can store and discharge electricity much more rapidly than a battery.

Cui says about the nanomaterials, “These nanomaterials are special. They’re a one-dimensional structure with very small diameters.” The small diameter is quite crucial because it helps the nanomaterial ink to stick strongly to the fibrous paper. This makes the battery and supercapacitor very durable. The paper supercapacitor can bear the 40,000 charge-discharge cycles. It’s better than lithium batteries as far as an order of magnitude is concerned. Cui explains that the nanomaterials also make ideal conductors because they move electricity along much more efficiently than ordinary conductors.

Bing Hu is a post-doctoral fellow. He put the above theory to practice. He took a small square of ordinary paper and dipped it with an ink. This deposited the nanotubes on the surface of the paper. This paper can then be charged with energy and viola! You are holding this wonder called paper battery.

Cui had previously experimented with plastic. He created plastic batteries using nano material. But he concluded that paper is a better option than plastic. Because, a paper battery is more long-lasting than plastic as ink sticks to paper more strongly. You can test the durability of paper batter by crumpling it, folding it or soaking it in acid or base, it’s performance will not deteriorate.

We all can conclude that paper battery will be more flexible than plastic one. By using that flexibility we can manoeuvre the battery in many possible ways. Cui explains, “If I want to paint my wall with a conducting energy storage device. I can use a brush.” Cui’s invention can be quite beneficial for electric or hybrid cars, because they demand quick transfer of electricity. The paper supercapacitor also enjoys the distinction of high surface-to-volume ratio. It will be advantageous for hybrid cars.

Peidong Yang is the professor of chemistry at the University of California-Berkeley. He says, “This technology has potential to be commercialized within a short time. I don’t think it will be limited to just energy storage devices. This is potentially a very nice, low-cost, flexible electrode for any electrical device.”

Cui foresees the biggest use of his paper batteries in large-scale storage of electricity on the distribution grid. We all know that surplus electricity generated at night could be stored in these paper batteries and later on utilized during rush or peak hours. Energy of wind and solar farms can also be stored in these paper batteries.

Yang put forth his opinion, “The most important part of this paper is how a simple thing in daily life — paper — can be used as a substrate to make functional conductive electrodes by a simple process. It’s nanotechnology related to daily life, essentially.”

What do you think?

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  • Albalan 0779

    This looks very interesting if it could be made economically viable, energy storage in or on any solid surface, built in or applied to houses, cars etc.

  • Thomas Finger

    It seems that about 9 of 10 ideas I read from this website are pie in the sky ideas for alternative energies–does anyone else think we need more practical forms of energy–things that could be implemented by maybe 50% of the population now or at least within 3 yrs–I have yet to see a solid list of those ideas/inventions….

  • DJ

    That is really interesting. While it seems more geared to specialized technical use, it would be cool to see bendable paper batteries hit the personal market.

  • Pat Delany

    Thomas Finger rightly wants a here-and now solution. This is one I devised, built and tested that is meant for rural areas of developing countries.

    Pat Delany

  • Lalit

    Some critical details are missing – How much energy was stored, what was the size of the cell, how much nano material was used, cost? methods of making, testing?

  • mr magoo

    This is not that special. Most existing supercapacitors and batteries use cellulose paper as a separator between the electrodes, they’re just printed separately on aluminum current collectors instead (this makes them have higher conductivity). University professors always claim the world for minor changes to things that industry has been doing for years.

  • Ken


    Many years ago a big company heard about a computer the size of a book with a flat screen with millions of colors.
    They said “Its impossible, computers are only 8 bit machines” and threw the person out. That big company was IBM.
    So, never say it can’t be done or its pie in the sky as far as technology.

  • William Carr

    “This is not that special. Most existing supercapacitors and batteries use cellulose paper as a separator between the electrodes”

    Oh, Mr. Magoo. None are so blind, as those that will not see.

    This process is using the high surface area of paper as the substrate for the nanostructures.

    Would it be better if we could grow the nanofibers into mile-long threads, wad them up and stuff them in a box?

    Maybe. But this approach works NOW, and it’s recyclable.

    When the cells finally tank, return the cells, burn the paper and reclaim the silver from the ashes.

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