Oct 24, 2017 | By David

Imagine a world where your phone battery never goes flat, because of a band you wear around your wrist. Sound far-fetched? Well obviously you’ve not been keeping up with the latest developments in materials science.

A recent breakthrough by researchers at London’s Brunel University has used 3D printing to produce a flexible supercapacitor, which could serve as a wearable battery booster pack. This means that flexible supercapacitors can now be made more cheaply and easily than ever before.

The project was carried out by Brunel’s Cleaner Electronics Research Group, which says this is the first time a flexible supercapacitor has been produced through a single continuous process. “This is the first time a flexible supercapacitor including all its components has been produced by 3D printing,” said Milad Areir from the Cleaner Electronics Research Group. “The most popular way to produce them is screen printing, but with that you can’t print the frame of the supercapacitor on silicone.”

Their pioneering approach made use of an open source 3D printer, which directed three or four syringes to extrude a special kind of electrolyte paste in layers in between glue and silicone. These different layers then solidified in place around a central supercapacitor, forming a wearable band that's also capable of acting as a direct and efficient power source.

Supercapacitors are capable of storing relatively small amounts of energy on their surface, but they are capable of transferring their charge very quickly and cleanly, without the need for internal chemical reactions.

The 3D printing process can make several wristbands in one go, printing in a honeycomb pattern that saves time and materials and thus cuts down on costs.

It’s a much more straightforward and accessible method than previous 3D printing techniques that were employed to produce flexible supercapacitors: researchers from various other places have made flexible supercapacitors, but their processes tended to be multi-stage and multi-machine, using the more expensive Selective Laser Melting technology. Relatively cheap everyday items and materials can now be used, which could make the development of wearable batteries more widely viable.

“In future it can be used for mobile phones,” said Areir. “For example, if the phone battery is dead, you could plug the phone into the supercapacitator wristband and it could act as a booster pack, providing enough power to get to the next charging point.” The work of his team was recorded in a paper published in the Materials Science and Engineering journal.

Not only is this new 3D printing technique cheaper and faster, it’s also easy to copy and experiment with on different variations of flexible batteries and electronics. We could soon see the development of specialized wearable power packs not just for phones but for electric cars, medical implants like pacemakers, and much more besides.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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