In a new paper published by Advanced Energy Materials, researchers at the University of British Columbia have created a new type of stretchable battery that can withstand the turbulence of a washing machine.
The market for wearable technologies is rising, and many scientists are focused on technological advances within the field. Wearable technology can have many uses, from monitoring vitals to supplementing our interaction with an increasingly digital world. Wearable technologies have been used to measure air quality, detect breast cancer, and enhance the independence of elderly or disabled people. Everyday wearable technologies include smartwatches, Bluetooth headsets, and web-enabled glasses.
Standard batteries are made of hard, internal materials encased in a rigid shell. Elastic batteries have been around for a while, but this is the first time a battery could be washed and remain functional. Researchers tested the battery’s durability by washing it in commercial-grade and domestic laundry machines. After 39 was cycles, the battery was still operational.
The battery was created by grinding manganese oxide and zinc into small pieces and then embedded into a flexible polymer. The polymers were layered and encased in the same polymer, which allowed for a waterproof seal that also ensured the effectiveness and durability of the battery.
Since these batteries are worn close to the skin, researchers chose compounds that would be safe and effective. A zinc/manganese dioxide compound is rechargeable and chemically safer than traditional Lithium-ion batteries, which can release toxic compounds when ruptured.
This new battery has the added advantage of being made from safe, cheap materials. The battery can be made in large quantities, bringing down the price. After a cost evaluation, scientists calculated that their new battery would cost about the same as any other commercial rechargeable battery. Researchers believe that their invention is ready for consumers, and it has already attracted lots of interest.
Going forward, researchers want to extend battery life and output, but even so, their invention has already advanced the landscape of wearable technologies by leaps and bounds. Compared to other stretchable batteries, a battery that can also be washed is making wearable technologies more accessible, convenient, and comfortable for consumers.