Researchers Develop Method to 3D Print Lithium-ion Batteries

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Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology can produce a complete device, such as the battery and electronic components, in virtually any shape

Researchers from Duke University and Texas State University in the United States have come out with a new method to 3D print lithium-ion batteries in almost any shape, as per a study published in ACS Applied Energy Materials. Lithium-ion batteries are mainly used in electronic devices such as laptop, cell phones, etc, and in electric vehicles.

The manufacturers generally design the electronic devices around the shape and size of batteries, available commercially. Most of the lithium-ion batteries available in the market come in rectangular or cylindrical shapes.

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If a manufacturer designs a device, such as a phone, he has to dedicate a certain shape and size to the battery that restrict the options for design and could waste space.

3D printing technology can produce entire device

Hypothetically, three-dimensional (3D) printing technology can produce a complete device, such as the battery and electronic components, in virtually any shape. However, the polymers that are used for 3D printing, like poly lactic acid (PLA), are non-ionic conductors, which create a major hindrance for printing batteries.

The main aim of the researchers was to develop a method for printing complete lithium-ion batteries using a low-cost 3D printer. Therefore, the researchers enhanced the PLA’s ionic conductivity and infused it with electrolyte solution. They also boosted the electrical conductivity of battery by integrating multi-walled carbon nanotubes or graphene into the cathode or anode, respectively.

To demonstrate the potential of the battery, the researchers’ team 3D printed a light emitting diode (LED) bangle bracelet with integrated lithium-ion battery. The battery of the bangle bracelet powered a green LED for around 60 seconds.

The first-generation 3D-printed battery’s capacity is about two orders of magnitude lesser as compared to commercial batteries that is too low for practical purposes, as per the researchers. However, they have various ideas for enhancing the capacity of battery, like substituting the PLA-based ingredients with 3D-printable pastes.

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