Of considerable interest is a new cutting-edge battery that may revolutionize the field. It is thinner than a millimeter, lighter than a gram, and can be produced cost-effectively through a printing process.  A printable battery could be produced cost-effectively on a large scale.  Its being 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.

Dr. Andreas Willert, group manager at ENAS says, “Our goal is to be able to mass produce the batteries at a price of single digit (Euro) cent range each.”  The small, thin battery comes out of a printer and can be applied to flexible substrates.  That makes it possible both to economically and practically energize things such a bankcards or other really small devices.  The Institute makes the case with an analogy: “In the past, it was necessary to race to the bank for every money transfer and every bank statement. Today, bank transactions can be easily carried out at home. In the future, simply touch your bankcard and a small integrated display shows the desired information.

Fraunhofer's Printable Battery Example.  Click image for more info.

Fraunhofer's Printable Battery Example. Click image for more info.

The batteries are printed using a silk-screen printing method similar to that used for t-shirts and signs. A rubber screed presses the printing paste through a silk-screen onto the substrate. A template in the silk-screen covers the areas that are not to be printed on. Through this process its 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. Its possible by the end of this year the first products could be available.

The battery characteristics differ significantly from those of conventional batteries. The printable version weighs less than one gram, its not even one millimeter thick and can therefore be integrated into the aforementioned bankcards, for example. 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 connecting several batteries in a series, voltages of 3 V, 4.5 V and 6 V etc can also be achieved. The new type of battery chemistry 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.

While this doesn’t seem closely applied to new energy or fuels, the process, using screed materials through pre-patterned screens has seriously interesting applications.  Today most everyone is thinking about canisters and other containers with costly connections.  Screening technologies and pre-printed circuits cannot be far away if the zinc air, lithium ion and other chemistries can be applied in similar ways.  Even more curious is the potential for the new specialized anodes and cathode technologies.  Would they also be “printable” or otherwise applied in quick, cheap and high volume methods?

You have to give the Fraunhofer guys credit; this is an interesting take on implementing stored electrons.  On has to wonder what will be possible when the super or ultra capacitor technologies mature to market pricing.  “Printing” construction might well be important to early lower cost fabrication.

Great idea.  I bet they aren’t limited to small devices for long.


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