What could be the first of its kind researchers at UBC have created battery that is flexible as well as washable. The battery is functional even when it is stretched or twisted twice than its normal length, or after being tossed in the laundry.
In fact, wearable electronics are in high demand and stretchable batteries are essential for their development. However, so far, elastic batteries have not been washable. This is an essential addition if the batteries need to withstand the requirements for everyday use.
The battery developed by the team of researchers offers several engineering advances. Normal batteries have internal layers composed of hard materials encased in a rigid exterior. The UBC team created the key compounds – zinc and manganese dioxide to be stretchable by breaking them into small pieces and then injecting them in a rubbery polymer or plastic. This design creates an airtight waterproof seal that maintains the integrity of the battery through repeated use.
To throw the battery in the wash to test the seal is what one of the team members suggested. So far, the battery withstood 39 wash cycles and the team expects to improve it further the durability as technology continues to be developed.
The prototypes of the battery was put through an actual wash cycle in commercial grade as well as domestic use machines. What came out was functional and intact to confirm the battery is truly resilient.
The selection of manganese and zinc dioxide battery also confers an important advantage. The choice of zinc manganese made because for devices that are worn next to the skin, it’s safer than lithium-ion batteries which can discharge toxic compounds when they break.