Toys are becoming more and more advanced, with interactive technology starting to play much bigger role. With this, the importance of energy storage becomes even bigger, but not so much because of energy density, but rather child-safety. A team of US engineers discovered the technology that could eliminate the issue.
More that 3,000 individual cases per year are registered in US hospitals of little children swallowing tiny batteries that belong to their favorite toys. Once the energy storage device enters the body it releases a current, and could cause numerous, unfortunately very often, fatal injuries. The problem has been apparent for a very long time, but to date the solution had to be provided by the toy-maker instead of the battery manufacturer.
A team of bio-engineers decided to put an end to this, and took on the task to develop a material that can provide the necessary coating to batteries, so that they do not cause damage if swallowed. After a series of long experiments, they managed to come up with something called “quantum tunnelling composite” (QTC), a material made of silicone and laced with small metal particles.
QTC as such is not a new material. It is already widely used in various industries, including smartphone makers and even the National Space Agency. The team decided to test it on batteries, and observed that it makes the energy storage device waterproof, preventing it from releasing a current. The team then conducted experiments using tissue from animal intestines, and noted that damage did not occur even after 24 hours. The whole process is thoroughly explained in the article published by the team in the journal PNAS.
The coating is seen as truly revolutionary discovery. Currently, the best available solution was to introduce different bad tastes or smells to the devices, however such measures have not proved extremely successful.
The technology is awaiting patent, and while this is happening, the team is already having discussions about possible large scale manufacturing. Considering that the coating is relatively cheap and easy to scale, it might not be too long before we see the great invention being put into commercial use.
Image (c) Thinkstock