Scientists have developed biodegradable printed paper batteries

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed biodegradable zinc batteries as thin as paper. Once the batteries are depleted, they decompose in the soil within a few weeks.

Zinc batteries developed by NTU in Singapore consist of electrodes (through which electric current flows out or enters the battery) screen-printed on both sides of a piece of hydrogel-reinforced cellulose paper. NTU Singapore explains how they made the batteries in an emailed statement:

To develop a thinner, lighter prototype with no packaging required, NTU scientists adopted a “sandwich design” for their batteries – the electrodes are like slices of bread, and the cellulose paper that the electrodes are printed on is like the filling of the sandwich.

The manufacturing process begins by strengthening the cellulose paper with hydrogel to fill in the gaps in the fibers naturally present in cellulose. This forms a dense separator which effectively prevents mixing of the electrodes, which are formulated as “electrode inks” and screen printed on both sides of the hydrogel reinforced cellulose paper.

Anode ink is mainly composed of zinc and carbon black (a type of conductive carbon). As for cathode ink, scientists have developed a type with manganese and another with nickel as a proof of concept, although the research team said other metals could eventually be used.

Once the electrodes are printed, the battery is immersed in an electrolyte. A layer of thin gold foil is then applied to the electrodes to increase the conductivity of the battery. The final product is about 0.4mm thick, which is about the thickness of two strands of human hair.

Paper batteries are made of electrodes (through which electric current flows out or enters the battery) screen-printed on both sides of a piece of hydrogel-reinforced cellulose paper. Photo: NTU Singapore

In a proof of concept experiment described in a scientific journal Advanced sciences, the NTU team demonstrated how a 4cm x 4cm stack of printed paper could power a small electric fan for at least 45 minutes. Bending or twisting the battery did not interrupt the power supply.


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In another experiment using a 4cm x 4cm battery to power an LED, scientists showed that despite cutting parts of the battery out of paper, the LED remained on, indicating that the cut was not affecting the functionality of the battery. drums.

The NTU innovation shows a cheaper and easier way to manufacture batteries – by developing a single large piece of battery that can be cut to desired shapes and sizes without losing efficiency. It could also help solve the e-waste problem, since the printed paper battery is not toxic, the research team said.

Assistant Professor Lee Seok Woo, co-lead author of the study, said:

We believe that the paper battery we developed could potentially help solve the e-waste problem, since our printed paper battery is non-toxic and does not require aluminum or plastic casings to encapsulate the components of the battery. drums. Avoiding layers of packaging also allows our battery to store more energy, and therefore power, in a smaller system.

In the future, the NTU team hopes to demonstrate the full integration of the printed paper battery with other printed electronic systems, electronic skins and energy storage systems deployed in the environment.

Read more: Here’s what the US needs to do to meet the growing demand for batteries

Photo: NTU Singapore

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