3D-printed batteries could replace traditional cells in the near future

By on November 26, 2013, 11:15 AM

We’ve seen 3D printing technology lead to a number of breakthroughs but the latest could be the most viable and important yet. Harvard materials scientist Jennifer Lewis has been using new tools and inks to create 3D printed batteries and the technology might not be too far away from a mainstream launch.

Lewis’ technique uses functional inks that can solidify into batteries and other simple components like electrodes, wires and antennas. The ink, which consists of nanoparticles like lithium for batteries or silver for wires, is printed using a very accurate and high-pressure extruder.

The ink is printed at room temperature and is said to dry extremely quickly, making it a snap to print a basic battery from scratch in minutes. And as Technology Review explains, Lewis’ printed lithium-ion batteries are as small as one millimeter square but can perform as well as conventional batteries. That’s because she can render microscale architectures and position structures with 100-nanometer accuracy to mirror the structures of much bigger batteries.

When the technology becomes commercialized, we could see much smaller batteries with the same power and capacity as traditional batteries we use today. This could lead to even smaller tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets, among other things.

On the manufacturing side, a technique like this could really speed up the production process as tens or even hundreds of printing nozzles could be put into commission simultaneously. So long as said batteries are removable, I don’t see a reason why this couldn’t replace existing battery technology altogether.

User Comments: 4

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madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't necessarily want smaller "tech gadgets," I want them to last longer. =/

We won't talk about "all day" computing or phone use, you start talking about weeks, maybe months. Same goes for wireless keyboards, mice, headsets, etc.

Don't get me wrong, being able to cram a tiny battery in small places is great for things already small like [smart] watches, HUD devices like google glass, and the like, but that's not my personal priority.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:


But remember, the smaller a battery is, the more we can cram in tight places meaning multiple batteries on one source. Battery tech is a slow evolving technology that is getting difficult with power consumption going up to keep up with. If we are able to cram lots of little batteries in tight places with good life, we can make things last longer just based on that.

JC713 JC713 said:

Wow this is amazing. Imagine 3 printing your own device at home. This could kill the manufacturing industry, but it is great for the consumer.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This could lead to even smaller tech gadgets like smartphones and tablets, among other things.
Naturally they jump to decrease the size of the battery instead of increasing run time longevity. I'm sick of the consumer/industry wanting smaller and smaller devices, while we fall into a daily ritual of making sure our devices are charging. Why even have a portable device, if we are going to have daily maintenance charging it.

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