A team based at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana has succeeded in designing and creating functional 3D-printed batteries, made out of layers thinner than human hairs.
The batteries, which are as small as sand grains, are useful inventions, especially for recent technology such as robot insects and medical implants, which have only been able to run thus far on batteries too large to practically fit them.
Some scientific innovations have had to lie dormant in laboratories, due to a lack of batteries simultaneously small and powerful enough to run them.
Old methods of creating miniature batteries included stacking thin films of solid materials on top of each other. However, while these designs were thin, they simply could not feasibly provide the amounts of energy required to power such devices.
In an attempt to resolve these problems, a team based at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 3D printed tiny batteries using special inks and 3D printers. The batteries, which were the size of sand grains, were printed in layers, each layer thinner than a human hair.
The layers were printed with special inks, made to behave alternatively as an anode or cathode. The scientists behind the project have developed a number of inks with special chemical and electrical properties. These have proven useful in manufacturing various devices with special scientific applications, as demonstrated by the batteries.
3D printers have spawned a number of ambitious innovations in recent times, including 3D printed handguns, 3D printed foods, and even a 3D printed skull implant. It will be interesting to behold what other applications the future holds for this diverse technology.