(Scientific American) Perhaps someday you’ll need to go to the store because you ran out of cathode paint. A team of researchers has just announced a new paint-on battery design. The technique could change the way batteries are produced and eliminate restrictions on the surfaces used for energy storage.
The paint-on battery, like all lithium ion batteries, consists of five layers: a positive current collector, a cathode that attracts positively charged ions, an ion-conducting separator, an anode to attract negative ions, and a negative current collector. For each layer, the challenge was to find a way to mix the electrically conductive material with various polymers to create a paint that could be sprayed onto surfaces.
Neelam Singh, a member of the team of materials scientists and chemists from Rice University in Houston and Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and lead author of the paper, says, “It was really exciting to find out. Can we really paint a battery on various surfaces and convert any object into a storage device?”
Singh says her team’s work is filling a need in the socially critical field of energy storage for new battery designs. “We find that the focus of research is now shifting towards integration of batteries,” she says. That is, people are trying to design batteries that can be built into a variety of different objects. Several teams are working to make thin and flexible batteries as well as batteries that can be incorporated into textiles. Solar energy is one of the applications that researchers are particularly interested in. Solar panels can require large surface areas, and the Rice team’s design is an efficient way to collect and store energy in this realm.