Fraunhofer Claims Printable, Paper-Thin Batteries Could Arrive Before 2010

July 08, 2009 by Jeff Shepard

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Research Institute for Electronic Nano Systems (ENAS), along with colleagues from Chemnitz University of Technology and Menippos GmbH announced that they have developed a paper-thin battery that can be produced cost-effectively through a silk screen printing process. They are targeting applications that have a limited life span or a limited power requirement.

The batteries (which are thinner than a millimeter) use zinc anodes and manganese cathodes, which react with one another to produce electricity. The materials gradually dissipate during the chemical process over the lifetime of the battery, making them suitable for short-term applications.

The batteries are printed using a process that is described as a "rubber lip" pressing the organic semiconductor materials (a paste) through a screen onto a flexible substrate. The technique uses templates to pattern layer upon layer, each about the thickness of a human hair, of battery components until enough bulk has been achieved for a particular application. The battery has a voltage of 1.5V, and ENAS claims that 3, 4.5, and 6V can be achieved by placing stacking the batteries (placing several in a row).

Fraunhofer researchers say the battery has been produced on a laboratory scale, and its partners estimate that the first products could be ready for testing by the end of 2009.