Researchers Power Wearable Devices With Printed Batteries

just-style global news

August 17, 2017

Researchers at the University of Manchester are a step closer to powering wearable technology devices without the need for cumbersome battery packs by printing flexible batteries directly on fabric.

Their research was motivated by the problem that small wearable gadgets often need large power devices—which is impractical. The new technique will allow a person to wear the battery powering his or her device.

The “wearables” feature a solid-state flexible supercapacitor that works by using conductive graphene-oxide ink to print on to cotton fabric. The printed electrodes are said to have “very good stability due to the excellent interaction between the ink and textile substrate.”

Nazmul Karim, knowledge exchange fellow at the University of Manchester, who co-authored the research paper on the battery technology said: “It will open up possibilities of making an environmentally friendly and cost-effective smart e-textile that can store energy and monitor human activity and physiological condition at the same time.”

He added: “The development of graphene-based flexible textile supercapacitor using a simple and scalable printing technique is a significant step towards realizing multifunctional next generation wearable e-textiles.”

Graphene-oxide can be produced at a relatively low cost in a printable ink-like solution. This ink can be applied to cotton textiles to create the supercapacitors which become part of the fabric itself.

The technology has the potential to be a disruptive innovation for the textile industry and will no doubt demand some overhaul to existing supply chain practices. A spokesperson at the university told just-style adaptations to the existing way fabrics are produced—including current models and manufacturing capabilities—will need to be considered for the idea to become commercially viable.

Though incorporating graphene and 2-D-materials has been proven at a scientific stage, it will need “industry-pull” to speed up commercialization and mass-manufacture.

Dr. Amor Abdelkader, co-author of the paper, said: “Textiles are some of the most flexible substrates, and for the first time, we printed a stable device that can store energy and be as flexible as cotton. The device is also washable, which makes it practically possible to use it for the future smart clothes. We believe this work will open the door for printing other types of devices on textile using 2-D-materials inks.”

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