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3D Printed Custom-Sized Lithium-Ion Batteries

Engadget reports on a recent, and rather fascinating study, undertaken by researchers and discussed in an article published in the scientific journal ACS Applied Energy Materials.

Apparently, a team of researchers wished to tackle a common obstacle: “one of the challenges in creating smaller and smaller [technological] devices these days, such as wearables and phones, is the batteries.  [These batteries] can take up a lot of room.  Cases are often designed around standard battery sizes, and it often creates wasted space.”

As a result of this obstacle, the research team was able to develop a way to 3D print lithium-ion batteries into whatever shape and/or size is required.  As the team, led by Christopher Reyes and Benjamin Wiley, explain: “the problem which has stood in the way of 3D printed lithium-ion batteries [until now] is the polymers traditionally used in this kind of printing aren’t ionic conductors.  The goal [of this research and development] was to discover a way to 3D print custom-sized lithium-ion batteries in a cost effective way using a regular, widely available 3D printer.”

Therefore, “in order to make the batteries conductive, the team…infused the polylactic acid (PLA) usually used in 3D printing with an electrolyte solution.  The researchers also incorporated graphene and carbon nanotubes into the design of the case in order to help increase conductivity.  Following these design modifications, the team was able to 3D print an LED bracelet, complete with a custom-sized lithium-ion battery.”

Before you get too excited, however, it is important to keep in mind the findings by this research team are incredibly “preliminary; the battery was only able to power the bracelet for about 60 seconds.  The team nots the capacity of the 3D printed battery is well below commercial standards.  [Obviously!]”

On the bright side, though, the research team does “have ideas for how to improve capacity, and this idea has a lot of promise for the future of small gadgets and tech.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Engadget

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