Till recently, electronics industry’s one of the biggest challenges was bringing about flexibility in devices. After all, there is considerable hype on foldable computer screens and smartphones. Besides, as digital technology is catching up rapidly with bio medical industry, there is a stir to have wearable micro-devices. But since lithium-ion batteries have powered devices traditionally, the idea of sewed-in batteries and foldable devices seems unfeasible. As, these are heavy and rigid.
However, a recent project at ETH Zurich, is on its way to fix the situation. Professor of Multi-Functional Materials, Markus Niederberger with his team has developed a prototype that can bend, stretch and twist. And, throughout this, the power supply stays steady.
The Twist in The Plot
In order for the battery to be foldable, researchers systematically chose all elements that are flexible. But, that’s not even the most interesting part. Instead, it is the electrolyte which is a gel-based solution. It is not inflammable and toxic and thus is environment friendly. And, it uses water with high concentration of lithium salt. This helps lithium ions move between cathode and anode and prevents water from decomposition. As for cathode and anode, they use lithium manganese oxide and vanadium oxide.
Additionally, the cathode and anode use bendable polymer and conductive carbon. On the inside, on the other hand, are micron sized silver flakes applied in way that they overlap with each other. This is mainly to ensure flexibility and consistent flow of current. But even if the contact breaks, current would flow because the carbon composite can facilitate it, even if weakly.
While, all this sounds good, researchers believe that for the batteries to be commercially available, it would take more. They have to find a way to hold more electrolyte and optimize flexibility, for instance. Besides, it is important to ensure electrolyte doesn’t leak.