One of the weaknesses in flexible electronics and one of the reasons why we don’t yet have roll-up smartphones, for example, is the battery. This component cannot normally be bent or stretched, let alone twisted.
However, a team of ETH researchers claims to have produced a lithium-ion battery that can be bent, stretched and twisted thanks to the use of stretchable materials and a certain type of electrolyte. Researcher Markus Niederberger and his team developed the prototype of a flexible battery, similar to a film that can be twisted without interrupting the energy supply.
The secret lies in its electrolyte, the area of the battery in which lithium ions move during the charging or discharging phase. The new electrolyte discovered by student Xi Chen Dell ‘ETH consists of a water-based gel with a high concentration of lithium salt. This system makes it possible to build a battery in layers like a sandwich.
“So far, nobody has used as many systematically flexible components as we have in the manufacture of a lithium-ion battery,” says Niederberger, suggesting that this new battery could open up new avenues in the flexible electronics industry. For example, for all portable devices it is sufficient to sew such a battery directly into the fabric of a suit.
Before considering possible marketing of this new battery, Niederberger himself points out that further research is needed to improve the sealing methods of the different layers and to increase the amount of material the electrode can contain.
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