New Microbatteries Pack a Punch

University of Illinois-developed millimetre-sized batteries could usher in the next wave of miniature electronics.

Comments Off on New Microbatteries Pack a Punch April 17, 2013
by Design Engineering Staff

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have announced the development of microbatteries that are only milimeters in size but strong enough to jump-start a car battery. Alternatively, the developers say, the diminutive cells could allow consumer, medical and other types of electronics to shrink in size with the same or better battery life and significantly faster recharge rates.

“This is a whole new way to think about batteries,” said William King, the Bliss Professor of mechanical science and engineering at University of Illinois who leads the research team. “A battery can deliver far more power than anybody ever thought. In recent decades, electronics have gotten small. The thinking parts of computers have gotten small. And the battery has lagged far behind. This is a microtechnology that could change all of that. Now the power source is as high-performance as the rest of it.”

Typically, batteries and other power sources either release small but powerful jolts of energy quickly or store large amounts of energy but release it slowly. According to King, the new microbatteries offer both simultaneously or can be configured along a spectrum of power versus capacity.

What makes these batteries different, King says, is the three-dimensional microstructure of the battery’s anode and cathode. Building on a fast-charging cathode design by materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun’s group, King and his team developed a matching anode and a new way to integrate the two components at the microscale.

The result, the researchers say, is a battery powerful enough to broadcast radio signals 30 times farther or allow for consumer electronics, medical devices, sensors and other applications 30 times smaller. In addition, the microbatteries recharge 1,000 times faster than competing technologies.

Presently, the research — supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research – is focused on reducing the battery technology’s manufacturing costs and integrating it with other electronic components.