Electronic devices continue to miniaturize, but the batteries that power them haven’t kept pace. That could all change with a 3D-printed micro-battery recently developed at Harvard.
When I first looked at the video, it almost looked like any other 3D printer that I’d ever seen in action, including the time-lapse. What makes this 3D printer amazing is the face that the electrodes it is printing are just 1,000µm [1mm] wide. Interlacing one anode and cathode with a 45µm gap results in the basis for a micro-battery. Here’s a video showing the microscopic anode being printed:
What are these batteries good for? Part of the problem with electronics miniaturization is that the batteries that power them are larger than the devices themselves, such as flying insect-bots, medical implants, eyeglass-mounted cameras and microphones. The flying insect-bot, for example, can’t carry a battery yet, and is powered by thin wires that are linked to the power source. A 3D-printed micro-battery could change the face of such miniature devices radically.
In testing, Harvard and University of Illinois researchers found that, once the microscopic electrodes were complete, enclosed, and filled with electrolyte, they performed just as well as commercially-available batteries in terms of power capacity, charge retention, charge and discharge rates, even cycle life, just on a much smaller scale. When each battery is just 1mm3 in size, these aren’t something that you’d be replacing like the “AA” batteries in your desk clock, but no worries, this micro-battery is also rechargeable.