Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea have developed, what they claim to be, the world's first imprintable and bendable lithium-ion battery. The move should hasten the adoption of mobile devices with flexible displays, such as Samsung’s Youm flexible OLED, and potentially other flexible devices that are beginning to emerge.
This is an interesting breakthrough in terms of mobile devices and paves the way for the next wave of displays, which will add flexibility to the already impressive innovation that exists. While I don't think this is quite such a revolutionary technology as the touchscreen, it will, once commercialized, have an impact on the future design of phones and tablets.
Elizabeth, I think it will go beyond phones and tablets. In the past year Design News has reported on various fabrics and clothing with embedded electronics. A flexible battery seems a perfect power source for smart clothing.
Duh, I didn't even think of that, TJ, but of course! And I actually reported on some of these electronic-embedded fabrics etc. It didn't occur to me at the time this would be a good application, but you're right, it certainly would make these types of things much more comfortable to wear by eliminating the need for a hard, bulky battery.
There are a lot of apps for a bendable battery aside from displays and touch screens, and they somewhat parallel the apps for bendable displays themselves: smart fabrics, wearable electronics, conformable signage, for example.
Ann, you are right. Wearable & portable electronic devices may be more benefitable because the devices become handier and hence easy to carry either in pouch or hand bag. How about the durability or life time of such cells/battery when it becomes bendable?
Mydesign, good point about durability. I don't know about the battery technology, since that's somewhat newer, but I began covering flexible electronics about 15 years ago in the technology's early days. That tech is pretty well established--just hasn't been visible until now since many of its earlier uses were inside consumer and other devices: like sport watches, for instance, and other small devices containing electronics. That's how we got circuit boards inside the small stuff. Point is, I think a) the durability problems have been pretty well solved by now for flex circuits, and b) they mostly go into short-lived products.
Ann, if they are targeting only short-lived products then its fine, otherwise durability is a major concern. I personally feels that such advantages has to pass to all level of electronic application, irrespective of it's a short/long lived products.
Great post Elizabeth. Also, I can see real application to RFID devices that are gaining greater use as complements and replacements for barcodes systems. These devices are dropping in costs and improving in effectiveness. Flexible battery technology is important and I would not be surprised if some form of commercialization is around the corner.
Thanks, bobjengr. I didn't think of that, either, but RFID is definitely another application of this technology as it increases in use. That is another technology that has been simmering for years and has taken a bit of time to catch on but you're right, it seems to be making real moves now.
Watashi, I think that's a brilliant idea. I've heard about flexible signage and using flexible solar panels on windows, and now we have flexible batteries, but combining them all together into a flexible, foldable, stowable tent sounds great.
"I think that's a brilliant idea. I've heard about flexible signage and using flexible solar panels on windows, and now we have flexible batteries, but combining them all together into a flexible, foldable, stowable tent sounds great."
Ann, great idea. But I think humans won't be that much flexible because of strong backbone (grin). Now the question is whether we need a flexible device or tiny, hand devices?
Yes, Mydesign, that is always the question--whether we NEED any of these new-fangled devices. Well, as someone of the "less is more" persuasion, I would say we don't really NEED many things, especially new gadgets that will probably be quite expensive and end up in a pile with all the other gadgets we have. But will we want them and buy them? Probably. And are they cool and interesting to think about as we marvel over the cleverless of the design and the people working these devices? Most definitely.
Good point, I think I am with you there and am finding this out by having too many devices! I have both an iPad and a smartphone, and I find I use my smartphone much more and my iPad hardly at all, since I can do mostly the same things with my smartphone anyway. All in one is probably the best way to go, and the smaller and more flexible, the better.
Yes, I do know some people who swear by their iPads, but for me, the most helpful application I found was iBooks (because of my love of reading--I liked that I could have books on my device). But then the device for some reason is incompatible with my home WiFi network here in Portugal (and I'm not exactly techie enough to figure out how! Have had similar problems with Apple products and WiFi in Europe)...so I can't even download books! Quite an expensive toy not to be using it..
I do use it, Mydesign, when I can actually download books! I just have a big problem with my iPad not connecting to my Internet at home...but sometimes it works. I will troubleshoot and see if I can make it happen...thanks for the nudge! :)
Well I thought you might want to know, Mydesign...all it took was a simple rebooting of my iPad to get it to like the wireless network. So I am now able to use it with my WiFi! I remember always being snarky when an IT person at a company would tell me to "reboot" when I had a computer problem at work...however, it sometimes is the simplest fix that gets things working properly again.
Elizabeth, it seems that now a day's all inventions are happening in a similar direction to bent the existing technology. Last month we read about foldable screen and now about batteries. Hope this will lead to a technology to bendable devices, so that we can bend and keep the device in our wallet or hand bag.
Interesting observation, and you're right. It seems for awhile that device design was going in the direction of thinner, smaller and more sleek. Now that a lot of companies have got that down, it's time to make them flexible. I look forward to see where this trend will take us.
True, Mydesign. I spent years (and still do sometimes) hauling around my bulky laptop on my back, to the detriment of my back, of course! Really look forward to the day when I can fold it up and tuck it away. More flexible material is much lighter as well.
Wearable Li-ion batteries, that's cool, but won't be so cool if they overheat and light your heated jacket on fire! Laptops, Chevy Volt, airplanes, etc. are pretty good indicators that Li-ion has its drawbacks. Now, imagine, someone's kid gets burned, even a little bit while wearing his cool LED jacket, or the coat room burns up during a night out. Dunno...I think that Li-ion tecnology will have a ways to go yet before we can ubiquitously start putting it into flammable, wearable goods. Try putitng a 9V dry cell in your pocket with a bit of change...yeowch!
Just wondering if anyone knows about any significant work being done with the miniaturization of battery technology? Obvious product designs are managing energy usage like never before, and there is an emphasis on efficiency. I would think that smaller sizes would be a way to help achieve the goal of making mobile devices more portable wearable.
Good question, Al. Maybe one of readers knows of miniaturization work. I do know that all electronics manufacturers are knocking themselves out to reduce MCU current consumption, and therby reduce the number of batteries that are needed. I'm constantly hearing about devices that get taken down from two or three coin cells to a single coin cell.
Imagine being able to illegally download a physical product the same way you can with music and videos. That’s basically what’s happening with 3D printing and digital manufacturing, with huge repercussions in the intellectual property domain.
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