Spray-on battery developed by US scientists | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 29.06.2012
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Science

Spray-on battery developed by US scientists

Researchers at Rice University in Texas say they have developed the world's first spray-on battery. The rechargeable battery could revolutionize power supplies around the world.

By breaking down the elements in traditional batteries, scientists at Rice University in Texas in the United States say they have created a liquid-form battery that can be sprayed onto almost any surface.

The rechargeable battery consists of different layers which represent a common battery, featuring two current collectors, a cathode, an anode, and a polymer separator in the middle.

They say it could revolutionize the design of lithium-ion batteries used for power portable devices such as laptops and mobile phones, and even electric cars.

"Traditional packaging for batteries has given way to a much more flexible approach that allows all kinds of new design and integration possibilities for storage devices," says research team leader, Pulickel Ajayan.

Lithium-ion batteries are also hard to dispose of in a sustainable way - spray on batteries could perhaps reduce landfill and change the way power for devices is distributed in developing countries.

Testing, testing

To test how well the liquid battery bonds, it was airbrushed onto various surfaces, including ceramics, glass and stainless steel, and on different shapes and forms, such as curves.

"Basically, using this approach, we can convert any object or surface to a battery," says Neelam Singh, the lead author of the project.

In one experiment, the team sprayed the liquid batteries on to nine, connected bathroom tiles. One of them was attached to a solar cell, which was charged with a white laboratory light.

In their report, the scientists say the battery-powered tiles delivered enough energy to light up to 40 LEDs for more than six hours. They produced a constant 2.4 volts.

But there's a problem

The technology cannot be used in every situation.

It uses difficult-to-handle liquid electrolytes and requires a dry and oxygen-free environment in production.

The researchers are now looking for components that will enable more efficient production in the open air and increase the technology's commercial viability.

za / nk (Reuters, AFP)