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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs