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Need new batteries? Fire up the printer

Batterien aus dem DruckerImagine no longer having to pop out to the shop for new batteries, but instead being able to print up a few on your home printer.

If we’re not there yet, we’re certainly closer: researchers in Germany have developed a new battery that’s thinner than a millimeter, lighter than a gram and can be produced cost-effectively through a printing process.

They compare the revolutionary aspect of the process to today’s online banking capabilities: where you once had to race to the bank for every money transfer and every bank statement, you can now easily conduct transactions from home using your PC.

The new printable battery was developed by a research team led by Reinhard Baumann of the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS in Chemnitz, together with colleagues from TU Chemnitz and Menippos GmbH.

“Our goal is to be able to mass produce the batteries at a price of single-digit cent range each,” said Andreas Willert, group manager at ENAS.

The characteristics of the battery differ significantly from those of conventional batteries. The printable version weighs less than one gram on the scales, is not even one millimeter thick and can therefore be integrated into bank cards, for example. The battery contains no mercury and is in this respect environmentally friendly. Its voltage is 1.5 V, which lies within the normal range. By placing several batteries in a row, voltages of 3 V, 4.5 V and 6 V can also be achieved.

The new type of battery is composed of different layers: a zinc anode and a manganese cathode, among others. Zinc and manganese react with one another and produce electricity. However, the anode and the cathode layer dissipate gradually during this chemical process. Therefore, the battery is best suitable for applications which have a limited life span or a limited power requirement, for instance greeting cards.

The batteries are printed using a silk-screen printing method similar to that used for t-shirts and signs. A kind of rubber lip presses the printing paste through a screen onto the substrate. A template covers the areas that are not to be printed on. Through this process it is possible to apply comparatively large quantities of printing paste, and the individual layers are slightly thicker than a hair.

The researchers have already produced the batteries on a laboratory scale. At the end of this year, the first products could possibly be finished.

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