18-Oct-2018 - Duke University

3D-printed lithium-ion batteries

Electric vehicles and most electronic devices, such as cell phones and laptop computers, are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Until now, manufacturers have had to design their devices around the size and shape of commercially available batteries. But researchers have developed a new method to 3D print lithium-ion batteries in virtually any shape.

Most lithium-ion batteries on the market come in cylindrical or rectangular shapes. Therefore, when a manufacturer is designing a product -- such as a cell phone -- they must dedicate a certain size and shape to the battery, which could waste space and limit design options. Theoretically, 3D-printing technologies can fabricate an entire device, including the battery and structural and electronic components, in almost any shape. However, the polymers used for 3D printing, such as poly(lactic acid) (PLA), are not ionic conductors, creating a major hurdle for printing batteries. Christopher Reyes, Benjamin Wiley and colleagues wanted to develop a process to print complete lithium-ion batteries with an inexpensive 3D printer.

The researchers increased the ionic conductivity of PLA by infusing it with an electrolyte solution. In addition, they boosted the battery's electrical conductivity by incorporating graphene or multi-walled carbon nanotubes into the anode or cathode, respectively. To demonstrate the battery's potential, the team 3D printed an LED bangle bracelet with an integrated lithium-ion battery. The bangle battery could power a green LED for about 60 seconds. According to the researchers, the capacity of the first-generation 3D-printed battery is about two orders of magnitude lower than that of commercial batteries, which is too low for practical use. However, they say that they have several ideas for increasing the capacity, such as replacing the PLA-based materials with 3D-printable pastes.

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about Duke University
More about American Chemical Society
  • News

    Luminescent wood could light up homes of the future

    The right indoor lighting can help set the mood, from a soft romantic glow to bright, stimulating colors. But some materials used for lighting, such as plastics, are not eco-friendly. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Nano have developed a bio-based, luminescent, water-resistant wood film t ... more

    Gold- and bronze-like paints that don't contain metal

    Lustrous metallic paints are used to enhance the beauty of many products, such as home decorations, cars and artwork. But most of these pigments owe their sheen to flakes of aluminum, copper, zinc or other metals, which have drawbacks. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Omega have developed ... more

    Digitizing chemistry with a smart stir bar

    Miniaturized computer systems and wireless technology are offering scientists new ways to keep tabs on reactions without the need for larger, cumbersome equipment. In a proof-of-concept study in ACS Sensors, researchers describe an inexpensive new device that functions like a conventional m ... more

  • Videos

    What Makes Rubber Rubbery?

    Reactions is looking at sports science today. Sports balls owe their reliability to an unusual polymer. Learn about the chemistry of rubber the all-star’s best friend! more

    Dragon's Blood Could Save Your Life

    This week Reactions is looking at chemistry in bizarre places that could save your life. The science within the blood of the Komodo dragon or in a horseshoe crab can help with antibiotic resistance. But it doesn't end there, so we're taking a closer look at other wild places in nature that ... more

    Why is Olive Oil Awesome?

    Whether you sop it up with bread or use it to boost your cooking, olive oil is awesome. But a lot of chemistry goes on in that bottle that can make or break a product. Take the “extra virgin” standard: Chemistry tells us that a higher free-fatty-acid content leads to a lower grade, less tas ... more