A California-based startup has developed a new ultra-thin flexible battery that is inexpensive to make and could potentially power next-gen wearable technologies. According to MIT Technology Review, Imprint Energy has been testing its ultra-thin zinc-polymer batteries in wrist-worn devices with aspirations of one day selling them to wearable electronics, medical device, smart label and environmental sensor manufacturers.
The batteries were developed from research that company co-founder Christine Ho had undertaken as a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley, where she collaborated with a researcher in Japan to produce microscopic zinc batteries using a 3D printer. Unlike lithium batteries with their highly reactive components, this flexible battery developed by Ho uses zinc and a polymer electrolyte, making it a stable and wearable-safe with a good capacity for recharging. Additionally, its small size and flexibility will allow for product designs that would have been impossible with bulkier lithium-based batteries. Even in small formats, the batteries can deliver enough current for low-power wireless communications sensors, distinguishing them from other types of thin batteries, writes MIT Technology Review’s Daniel Lovering.
“While zinc is more stable, the water-based electrolytes in conventional zinc batteries cause zinc to form dendrites, branch-like structures that can grow from one electrode to the other, shorting the battery. Ho developed a solid polymer electrolyte that avoids this problem, and also provides greater stability, and greater capacity for recharging.”
According to reports, Imprint Energy has secured $6 million of funding from Phoenix Venture Partners and AME Cloud Ventures, which will assist the team to further develop its proprietary chemistry and finance the battery’s commercial launch. The company has already been in talks about the use of its batteries in clothing and even “weird parts of your body like your eye.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve reported on flexible batteries. Earlier this spring, Rice University researchers created a flexible battery that could potentially power future generations of wearable devices. Developed by Rice chemist James Tour and his colleagues, the design comprised flexible material with nanoporous nickel-fluoride electrodes layered around a solid electrolyte.