News / Science & Technology

3D Printed Microbatteries Could Unleash Wave of Innovation

A research team from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has demonstrated the ability to 3D print a battery.  (SEM image courtesy of Jennifer A. Lewis.)
A research team from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has demonstrated the ability to 3D print a battery. (SEM image courtesy of Jennifer A. Lewis.)
VOA News
Scientists using new 3D printing technology have produced lithium-ion batteries the size of a grain of sand. They say the tiny batteries, similar in function to those in cell phones and digital wristwatches, could be used in a new wave of innovative, miniature medical devices.


Teams from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used 3D printing techniques to interlace minute battery electrodes, each less wide than a human hair.


“Not only did we demonstrate for the first time that we can 3D-print a battery; we demonstrated it in the most rigorous way,” said Jennifer A. Lewis of Harvard, senior author of the study. Lewis is the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).


The tiny batteries could bode well for medical devices such as implants, minute robots, tiny cameras and microphones, which currently need batteries as large, or larger, than the devices themselves.  


Miniature batteries have traditionally been made of thin films of solid material. Due to the thinness, the batteries were not able to hold enough energy to power devices of the future. The use of 3D printing provided the opportunity to stack layers of materials capable of storing much more power.


The first hurdle to overcome was to develop a specialized ink. The 3D printers, instead of releasing liquid droplets like a typical inkjet printer, release ink through fine nozzles like toothpaste from a tube. The ink also needed to function as electrochemically active material to form the battery’s anodes and cathodes and also to immediately harden.

The printer deposited the inks onto the teeth of two tiny gold combs, creating a tightly interlaced stack of anodes and cathodes. Then the researchers packaged the electrodes into a tiny container and filled it with an electrolyte solution to complete the battery.


“The electrochemical performance is comparable to commercial batteries in terms of charge and discharge rate, cycle life and energy densities. We’re just able to achieve this on a much smaller scale,” said co-author Shen Dillon, an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

The microbattery ink designs “open up entirely new possibilities for miniaturization of all types of devices, both medical and non-medical,” said Donald Ingber, who is also a Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard SEAS.

The results have been published online in the journal Advanced Materials.

Here's a short video about the process:





You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 20, 2013 8:42 PM
Great technology, is not it ! I understand materials used for inks are most important for 3-D printing. I wonder materials used for anodes and cathodes are different each other in this miniture battery. If we can use multiple materials for inks at the same time, it means more complex products could be made?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid