• Printable batteries

    The small, thin battery comes out of the printer and can be applied to flexible substrates. Image credit: Fraunhofer ENAS
    Date:2 July 2009

    Are you sick and tired of batteries that are cumbersome and that fail to work at the most inopportune times? Then you’ll be happy to know that researchers have come up with a printable battery that weighs less than one gram, is not even one millimetre thick and can therefore be integrated into bank cards, for example.

    The printable version was developed by a research team led by Prof Dr Reinhard Baumann of the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS in Chemnitz together with colleagues from TU Chemnitz and Menippos GmbH. “Our goal is to be able to mass produce the batteries at a price of single digit cent range each,” states Dr Andreas Willert, group manager at ENAS.

    The characteristics of the battery differ significantly from those of conventional batteries. The battery contains no mercury and is in this respect environmentally friendly. Its voltage is 1.5 V, which lies within the normal range. By placing several batteries in a row, voltages of 3 V, 4.5 V and 6 V can also be achieved. The new type of battery is composed of different layers: a zinc anode and a manganese cathode, among others. Zinc and manganese react with one another and produce electricity. However, the anode and the cathode layer dissipate gradually during this chemical process. Therefore, the battery is suitable for applications which have a limited life span or a limited power requirement, for instance greeting cards.

    The batteries are printed using a silk-screen printing method similar to that used for t-shirts and signs. A kind of rubber lip presses the printing paste through a screen onto the substrate. A template covers the areas that are not to be printed on. Through this process it is possible to apply comparatively large quantities of printing paste, and the individual layers are slightly thicker than a hair.

    The researchers have already produced the batteries on a laboratory scale. At the end of this year, the first products could possibly be finished.

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