The Beginnings of Customized Batteries
What are lithium-ion batteries? Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries with high energy output and low maintenance and can handle hundreds of charge/discharge cycles. You can find them in laptop computers, PDAs, cell phones and iPods and other electronic devices. They are also used in electric vehicles. However, manufacturers have had to design their devices around the size and shape of commercially available batteries. But researchers have developed a new method to 3D print lithium-ion batteries in any shape.
Currently, most lithium-ion batteries are available in cylindrical or rectangular shapes. So when designing a product, like a cell phone, manufacturers must dedicate a certain size and shape to the battery. One of the challenges in creating smaller and smaller devices today, such as wearables and phones, is that the batteries can take up a lot of room. Cases are often designed around standard battery sizes, and it often creates wasted space. Hence, the disadvantage is not only space-consuming and but also limits design options. However, theoretically, 3D-printing technology can fabricate an entire device, including battery and structural and electronic components, in almost any shape.
From the American Chemical Society comes this report recently published in the ACS Applied Energy Materials. It concludes that it’s possible to 3D-print lithium-ion batteries into whatever shape is needed.
The problem in 3D-printing lithium-ion batteries is that the polymers or poly lactic acids (PLA) traditionally used in this kind of printing are not ionic conductors. The goal for researchers was to develop a process to print custom-sized lithium-ion batteries in a cost-effective way using a regular, inexpensive and widely available 3D printer.
The researchers increased the ionic conductivity of PLA by infusing it with an electrolyte solution, boosted the battery’s electrical conductivity by incorporating graphene or multi-walled carbon nanotubes into the anode or cathode, respectively. To demonstrate the battery’s potential, the team 3D printed an LED bangle bracelet with an integrated lithium-ion battery. The bangle battery could power a green LED for about 60 seconds only. The capacity is lower than that of commercial standards, not suitable for practical use. But they have ideas for how to improve capacity, with a lot of promise for the future of small gadgets.
Looking Into the Future of Batteries in Seattle
According to your favorite 3D printing company in Seattle, 3D Composites, it’s exciting to anticipate the day when any small tech gadget can be powered by the littlest of lithium-ion batteries. Thanks to 3D printing.