3D-Printed Lithium-Ion Battery Is the Size of a Pinhead
Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and visiting researchers from South Korea have demonstrated the ability to 3D print a pinhead-sized battery. These interlaced and stacked electrodes were printed layer by layer to create the working anode and cathode. (Source: Jennifer A. Lewis/Harvard University)
It seems there is no end to what can be done using 3D printing, which is proving to be a truly disruptive technology and has the potential to be as game-changing as the Internet itself in terms of its effect on how we do things. This research shows advances not only in this area, but also continued efforts to improve lithium-ion battery chemistries and design forms. Will be interesting to see if something like this makes it out of the research lab.
Thanks for the info, vimulkumarp. When you say it could be used in implantable devices, I assume that pacemakers and implantable defibrillators would require too much energy for this technology, right?
Lonegity is also another important criteria in the batteries used for implantable medical devices. There is an increase in number and types of implanatable devices and power ratings of these are different understandably. Like rating for a cochlear implant battery may be different for ICD requirement and same is true with longevity.
Remember that battery power in mAh ratings is directly proportional to the physical size of the cell. While this is a breakthrough for 3D printing, there is a long way to go before it could power a pace-maker – if ever. I think the future applications are going to be toward much smaller, lower power devices.
1. battery power in mAh ratings is directly proportional to the physical size of the cell. 2. The future applications are going to be toward much smaller, lower power devices . The second point is validated by the fact that MEDICA Dusseldorf as identified low power design as the medical device market driver. So if the design is low power, then even a battery wil less ampere hour rating can be used.
vimalkumarp --My thoughts exactly. I know the technology is somewhat distant but when ready, I can see a device such as this powering a pace maker or maybe a pump implant delivering medication to a diabetic. This is the type of life-saving R&D worth the time and money. Also, the probability of powering sensors needing somewhat low power would seem to be a suitable candidate for this 3D device. Great post Elizabeth. Very informative.
Charles - your 800 uM estimate seems about right, from the scale in the image. It looks like 800 or maybe 1,000.
But I have a difficult time envisioning uM's, or microns. In order to wrap my head around that tiny number I had to convert it to a unit I am much more familiar with, being either millimeters or thousands of an inch, which I understand better in my head.
That image is ~ 1,000 microns --- or, about 1.0mm --- or, about .040" .
When I see 1mm [.040"] now I'm clearly seeing a more tangible size -- about the plastic wall thickness of a common molded housing.
Still unbelievably small for a battery; but not microscopic. – (Just helps me to visualize it better.)
This sounds like quite a breakthrough, Elizabeth. What are the 3D printing method and materials they used? The mention of "inks" sounds like it might be a thin-film printed electronics method, such as that used by Optomec in its conformal electronic printing. http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=265097
But that's printed 3D electronics, not 3D printing.
I'm not really sure about that, Ann...I will have to get back to you on the 3D printing method used. I imagine it was pretty tricky printing something so small! Would some methods be more appropriate for this type of thing?
The scale is extremely small, but new barriers are being broken all the time in this field. According to the Harvard press release at the link you give, the team custom designed both the inks and the 3D printers and did so because thin-film battery electrode production methods didn't produce enough energy.
Ann-You know what the article's image reminded me of, were MEMS devices, etched from silicon. The 3D printing might be just the disruptive technology that the MEMS industry needed, as the silicone-etching process is so cost prohibitive.
Jim, that's a brilliant comparison. I'd still like to know exactly what process/materials they've invented and how it differs from others already in existence. The lead author, Jennifer Lewis, was quoted in an MIT Technology Review article here http://www.technologyreview.com/news/516561/a-battery-and-a-bionic-ear-a-hint-of-3-d-printings-promise/ saying that her team's method could print 2D and 3D electronics, including antennas, which sounds like the printed 3D electronic circuits Optomec is doing as we covered here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=265097 although of course they're not made with thin-film. She also says the process is extrusion. Another similarity with Optomec is that in this same MIT article, Lewis talks about the potential for integrated electronics.
@Elizabeth – I think now its high time for us to ask the question "What cant the 3D printer print?". I think this is one of the best innovations for the past decades. What more could we expect from technology.
I agree, shehan. It's getting into the realm of the ridiculous nearly when you think of all the things being 3D printed. NASA is even 3D printing things in space! Pretty incredible. Let's see what they think of next!