Researchers at Stanford University have used nanotechnology to create lightweight and even bendable batteries out of paper.
The paper batteries are designed to be folded, crumpled or even soaked in an acidic solution and still work, according to Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, at Stanford. The team created the batteries by coating a sheet of paper with ink made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires.
Stanford offered no indication of when the batteries would be ready for commercial use.
“The most important part of this … is how a simple thing in daily life — paper — can be used as a substrate to make functional conductive electrodes by a simple process,” said Peidong Yang, professor of chemistry at the University of California-Berkeley, in a statement. “It's nanotechnology related to daily life, essentially.”
The nanotubes used in the paper batteries and supercapacitors are one-dimensional structures with a small diameter, which enables the ink made from them to stick tightly to the paper. The university noted that the paper supercapacitors may be able to handle 40,000 charge-discharge cycles, which is an order of magnitude more than lithium batteries can take.
Cui pointed out that the nanomaterials make better conductors than traditional materials because they can move electricity more efficiently.
This is just the latest incidence of scientists using nanotechnology to further battery research.
Last summer, IBM launched a multi-year battery research project using nanotechnology, materials science and supercomputing.
In April, researchers at MIT reported that they are combining nanotechnology with genetically engineered viruses to build batteries that could power hybrid cars and cell phones.
And before that, another team of researchers at Stanford used silicon nanowires to enable lithium-ion batteries to hold 10 times the charge they could before. That means a laptop could last for some 40 hours using the new battery, according to Cui.