A team at Stanford University, led by Chemical Engineering Professor Zhenan Bao and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Yi Cui has designed a new polymer stretchable battery for wearable electronics that they said can store power safely even when bending to conform to natural movements of the human body.
“Until now we haven’t had a power source that could stretch and bend the way our bodies do, so that we can design electronics that people can comfortably wear,” Bao said.
Like a sticker
The new polymer stretch battery potentially could be used an ongoing project by Bao and his team to develop a wearable technology that sticks to the skin like Band-Aids to send wireless readings about human health and vital signs to a receive clipped onto clothing. The device, called BodyNet, currently has an antenna that harvests the incoming RFID energy from a receiver on the clothing to power its sensors, which takes readings from the skin and beams them back to the nearby receiver.
The new battery developed by Bao and Cui is based on a new solid polymer rather than a more gel-like plastic currently used as an electrolyte in some lithium-ion batteries. The problem with a more liquid material is that it can potentially leak from the battery, causing corrosion that creates flammability.
Polymer Enables Flexibility
Polymer which is typically less conductive, can still carry an electric charge between the battery’s poles. Researchers reported that in lab tests, the experimental battery—which is thumbnail-sized–maintained a constant power output even when squeezed, folded, and stretched to nearly twice its original length. The team has some research ahead to create a battery that’s on par with conventional batteries, however.
Currently, the prototype battery stores about half as much energy, ounce for ounce, as typical batteries. Researchers aim to increase the stretchable battery’s energy density, build larger versions of the device, and run future experiments to demonstrate its performance outside the lab.
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