NTU Singapore scientists create biodegradable printed paper batteries

Dec 17, 2021 02:43 PM ET
  • Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have actually established paper-thin biodegradable zinc batteries that might someday end up being an ecologically lasting alternative for powering flexible and also wearable electronic systems.
NTU Singapore scientists create biodegradable printed paper batteries
Image: spacedaily.com

The NTU Singapore-developed zinc batteries are made up of electrodes (where the electrical current leaves or goes into the battery) screen-printed on to both sides of a piece of cellulose paper that has been reinforced with hydrogel.

Once the battery has actually been used up, it can be hidden in soil, where it breaks down completely within a month.

In a proof-of-concept experiment explained in scientific journal Advanced Science, the NTU team demonstrated how a 4cm x 4cm square of printed paper battery could power a tiny electrical fan for at the very least 45 minutes. Flexing or twisting the battery did not disrupt the power supply.

In another experiment making use of a 4cm x 4cm battery to power an LED, the scientists revealed that regardless of removing parts of the paper battery, the LED continued to be lit, showing that reducing does not impact the performance of the battery.

The researchers assume their printed battery could be integrated right into flexible electronics such as foldable cell phones that are currently on the market, or biomedical sensing units for wellness tracking.

Teacher Fan Hongjin from the NTU School of Physical and also Mathematical Sciences and the study's co-lead author, said: "Typical batteries been available in a selection of versions and dimensions, as well as choosing the best kind for your gadget could be a troublesome procedure. With our study, we showed a simpler, less expensive means of producing batteries, by creating a solitary large piece of battery that can be reduced to desired shapes and sizes without loss of efficiency. These features make our paper batteries suitable for assimilation in the kind of flexible electronic devices that are slowly being established."

Aide Teacher Lee Seok Woo from the NTU School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and the study's co-lead writer, claimed: "We believe the paper battery we have actually developed can potentially help with the electronic waste problem, considered that our printed paper battery is non-toxic and does not require aluminium or plastic casings to encapsulate the battery components. Staying clear of the product packaging layers additionally allows our battery to store a greater amount of power, as well as hence power, within a smaller system."

The development of printed paper zinc batteries by the NTU research team, which also includes research fellows Dr Yang Peihua and also Dr Li Jia, is in line with the NTU 2025 vision as well as the University's Sustainability Statement of belief, which aspire to create sustainable options to resolve a few of humankind's pressing grand difficulties.

Making 'sandwich-style' batteries

Batteries power gadgets via an electrochemical response, which creates electrical power. The internal workings of a battery are normally housed within a steel or plastic case. Inside this case are the cathode and anode - these are electrodes where the electrochemical reactions take place.

A separator included in between the cathode and anode produces a barrier and stops the electrodes from touching while permitting electrical charge to flow easily between them, staying clear of short circuits.

Likewise inside the battery is a medium known as the electrolyte, which allows the electric charge to flow in between the cathode and also anode.

To establish a thinner, lighter prototype without any packaging called for, the NTU researchers embraced a "sandwich design" for their batteries - the electrodes resemble the bread pieces, and the cellulose paper that the electrodes are printed on resembles the sandwich filling.

The construction process starts with reinforcing cellulose paper with hydrogel to fill out the fibre voids found normally in cellulose. This creates a dense separator that properly prevents the blending of the electrodes, which are formulated as 'electrode inks' and screen-printed onto both sides of the hydrogel-reinforced cellulose paper.

The anode ink is mostly comprised of zinc and also carbon black (a conductive sort of carbon). As for the cathode ink, the scientists established one type with manganese and also an additional with nickel as a proof-of-concept, though the research study team said that steels could possibly be utilized.

After the electrodes are printed, the battery is submersed in an electrolyte. A layer of gold thin foil is after that coated on the electrodes to raise the conductivity of the battery. The final product has to do with 0.4 mm thick - regarding the thickness of 2 strands of human hair.

An environment-friendly alternative

With hydrogel and also cellulose naturally broken down by microorganisms, fungis, and also other bacteria, the battery can simply be hidden in soil at the end of its life span where it breaks down in an issue of weeks, making it a fully biodegradable item.

To demonstrate the paper battery's biodegradability, the NTU researchers buried it in the soil of a roof yard on the NTU campus. The hydrogel-reinforced cellulose paper started fracturing after two weeks, and also degraded completely within a month.

Prof Fan claimed: "When decay occurs, the electrode products are released right into the atmosphere. The nickel or manganese used in the cathodes will remain in their oxide or hydroxide kinds, which are close to the type of all-natural minerals. The zinc discovered in the anode will certainly be normally oxidised to form a non-toxic hydroxide. This points to the battery's potential as a much more sustainable choice to existing batteries."

Moving forward, the NTU team hopes to demonstrate the full combination of the printed paper battery to other printed electronic devices, electronic skins, as well as power storage space systems released in the setting.

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