Self-charging batteries made from printable ink
Strategic Elements subsidiary Australian Advanced Materials is developing a self-charging battery technology through a collaboration with UNSW and CSIRO. The company’s battery cells can create electricity from humidity in the air or skin surface to self-charge themselves within minutes; no manual charging or wired power is required.
The batteries should have strong competitive advantages over lithium-based batteries, which suffer from issues with weight, flammability and the need for a constant power supply to recharge. They are being created with a printable ink, developed by integrating the company’s Nanocube Memory Ink technology with an advanced graphene oxide material.
Nanocube Memory Ink is a transparent ink containing billions of nanometre-scale particles that, when printed onto a surface and assembled with electrodes, operate as computer memory. Graphene oxide is meanwhile formed by the oxidation of graphite, which is cheap and readily available, and is dispersible in water and other solvents. Benefiting from exceptional physicochemical properties, graphene-based materials are able to harvest energy from external factors such as moisture and heat.
Early-stage work at UNSW has seen the fabrication of over 100 battery cells by coating graphene oxide ink onto glass. These battery cells are just 10–20 µm thick — thinner than a human hair — and around 1 cm2. With the ability to self-charge in approximately three minutes using water vapour in the air, each cell has been able to generate more than 0.7 V of power, with the goal for connected cells to be able to generate 3.7 V. Further development goals include reducing battery cell size whilst increasing current output at lower humidity levels.
“Early-stage results are extremely promising as we apply years of experience and intellectual property in electronic inks into the development of a battery ink that generates electricity from the environment,” said Strategic Elements Managing Director Charles Murphy.
The batteries should be particularly suitable for use in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, where there is a growing need for thin and flexible batteries. The global IoT battery market is estimated to grow from US$9.2 billion in 2020 to US%15.9 billion in 2025 — a CAGR of 11.6% — driven by technological advancements and the adoption of IoT devices such as wearables, smart meters, sensors and home automation products.
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