Blood, Sweat Could Power New Paper Battery

Nanocomposite paper i i

A researcher holds a sample of the new nanocomposite paper. Infused with carbon nanotubes, the paper can be used to create ultra-thin, flexible batteries and energy-storage devices. Victor Pushparaj/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hide caption

itoggle caption Victor Pushparaj/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Nanocomposite paper

A researcher holds a sample of the new nanocomposite paper. Infused with carbon nanotubes, the paper can be used to create ultra-thin, flexible batteries and energy-storage devices.

Victor Pushparaj/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

About the Battery

  • It can function in temperatures as low as 100 below zero and as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • More than 90 percent of the device is made up of cellulose, the same plant cells used in newsprint and other types of paper.
  • Aligned carbon nanotubes, which give the device its black color, act as electrodes and allow the battery to conduct energy.
  • Ionic liquid, essentially a liquid salt, is used as the battery's electrolyte. The battery contains no water, so it won't freeze, allowing the device to withstand extreme temperatures.
  • The device can be rolled, twisted, folded or cut into various shapes.
  • The batteries can be stacked, like a ream of printer paper, to boost power output.

Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Victor Pushparaj, Shaijumon M. Manikoth, Robert Linhardt, and Ashavani Kumar i i

Researchers on the battery project include Victor Pushparaj (from left), Shaijumon M. Manikoth, Robert Linhardt, and Ashavani Kumar. Steve Morris/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Morris/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Victor Pushparaj, Shaijumon M. Manikoth, Robert Linhardt, and Ashavani Kumar

Researchers on the battery project include Victor Pushparaj (from left), Shaijumon M. Manikoth, Robert Linhardt, and Ashavani Kumar.

Steve Morris/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Blood and sweat could power a battery that looks just like a piece of paper, scientists say.

"It's flexible, it can be shaped or folded, you can poke a hole in it and it still works," says chemist Robert Linhardt, a member of the research team that developed the new battery, which is made from paper and carbon nanotubes. He works at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

Regular AA batteries, like the ones in your camera, use battery acid to produce a current. But the new paper battery can run on blood or sweat. That means it might ultimately be used to power medical devices like hearing aids or pacemakers.

"It could be easily implanted directly under the skin," unlike metal batteries, which are less flexible, Linhardt says.

One of these paper batteries, which are the size of a postage stamp, can produce enough current to power a small, green LED, like the one that lights up when you turn on a computer screen. Stack them and, Lindhart says, the power adds up.

Lindhart predicts it will take years to perfect the paper battery. But he says there may be a clever way to manufacture it.

"We'd like to be able to ultimately print these batteries like a newspaper is printed, from roll to roll, on a printing press," he says.

With reporting by Marina Giovannelli

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