Stretchable Battery For Powering Wearable Electronics

By Vinay Minj

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This new innovation can revolutionise the future of battery and prove to be a better alternative to currently employed power cells.

The adoption of wearable electronics is limited by their need to derive power from bulky, rigid batteries that reduce comfort. (Image credit: www.pixabay.com)

Thanks to the advancements in science and technology, batteries used these days have become much smaller and less bulky. When it comes to wearables, most of them employ small coin-sized batteries to power the surrounding electronic components. And since wearable electronics are increasingly becoming smaller, it is required that the accompanying battery size is also small and takes up less space.

Therefore, researchers from Stanford University have now developed a battery that is soft, stretchable and much safer than the present day ones. Rather than being viscous and sticky, the polymer used in making the battery is solid (like a rubber band or an eraser).

The stretchable battery is made of a special type of polymer that has the capability to store enough charge for powering small electronics and at the same time is non-inflammable, as compared to conventional batteries. The prototype is thumbnail-sized and stores roughly half as much energy as compared to a conventional battery.

Adding to the battery’s flexibility is its ability to maintain a constant power output even when squeezed, folded and stretched to nearly twice its original length.

No risk of chemical leakage

Polymers have been used in batteries for quite some time. For example, lithium-ion batteries that have used polymers as electrolytes for transporting negative ions to the positive pole. But since these polymer-based electrolytes are in the form of gels, there is an ever-present risk of chemical leakage that can cause combustion or worse, an explosion.

Despite the hazard involved, most wearables currently employ rigid batteries as there is no viable alternative. But not anymore.

“Until now we haven’t had a power source that could stretch and bend the way our bodies do so that we can design electronics that people can comfortably wear,” said Zhenan Bao, Researcher and Professor of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University.

Application

A potential application for such a device can be to power flexible sensors that stick to the skin for monitoring heart rate and other vital signs.

Future plans

Graduate student David Mackanic states that further research is going on to increase the stretchable battery’s energy density and build larger versions of the device.

The full research paper can be read here.


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