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Desktop printers used to make batteries

July 5, 2016

Sang-Young Lee hacked a desktop printer to make circuits and batteries.battery hackers

To enable the printer to print the circuits and batteries Lee has to “empty the ink cartridges and refill them with specially formulated battery materials and conductive inks”, says the report from MIT Technology, after which the printers are “loaded with treated paper”, and his “hacked printers make flexible, durable supercapacitors and simple circuit components in the form of a high-resolution map of the Republic of Korea, a flower, a logo, or any other desired design”.

Lee has been working on this project for five years at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) where he is a battery chemist, stating that “the architecture of the battery hasn’t changed since the birth of the lithium-ion battery”. The technique uses “energy-storing materials are cast onto metal foil and packaged with a liquid electrolyte into a few basic shapes” for instance “the design of wearable health monitors, whether they’re in textiles or worn in a wristband, is constrained by the need for a battery box or pouch”.

Lee “wants to make flexible batteries that disappear into a design and can be made using simple equipment, such as an inkjet printer”. Everything has to be specifically designed so that the inks do not “smear or run”, and the process starts with “the first layer to be printed […] a cellulose primer that absorbs inks and won’t run”. This is followed by “carbon nanotubes, which replace the foil current collector in a battery, and silver nanowire electrodes, followed by an electrolyte ink”, with each ink “formulated so that it would flow through the printhead and not clump up while sitting in the cartridge”.

Lee’s system worked because he developed “an electrolyte compatible with inkjet printing” – this is usually in liquid form, and Lee is the first person to do this. Mechanical Engineer and Industrial Designer, Inna Lobel, from New York City, said “the goal for the internet of things and ubiquitous computing is to have technology go into the background so we can interact with the world in ways that feel natural”

This is a work in progress, and “Lee had to build the equipment to test his flexible batteries” but in the future hopes to “continue to improve the total energy storage of the printed devices and try printing on different materials besides paper”.







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