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Engineering Power Sources: Microbatteries

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Engineering Power Sources: Microbatteries

Advanced Electronics Require Advanced Power Technology


Imagine having just left the lights on in your car all night. Now it’s time to go to work and the battery is dead. Well now you may be in luck with a newly developed technology that creates a battery so strong you could use your phone to jumpstart your vehicle and then recharge the phone in just a matter of seconds. Developed by researchers out of the University of Illinois is a new battery that only measures just millimeters across and can out-perform the best super capacitors which gives them the potential to completely revolutionize compact electronics. Examining even the most compact of smart phones it is obvious that the bulk of the size is from the battery, the electronics and working parts have gotten much smaller and now the battery can keep up. Until now batteries had to have an ebb and flow in regards to strength and duration. They can either release energy quickly while storing very little, or can store a large amount and deplete over a long period of time, but then recharge slowly in return.

[i] These new micro batteries top the charts in both strength and duration and based on their internal structure can be easily manipulated to have more of one versus the other.  One of the authors of the paper that explained this technology described it as an “enabling technology” as opposed to a “progressive improvement” because it allows for a more expansive amount of tasks to be accomplished more efficiently.[ii]

Engineering and Technology Behind Microbatteries

The batteries are able to have such power thanks mainly to their innovative internal three-dimensional microstructure. All batteries have two main parts, a positive terminal (the cathode) and a negative terminal (the anode) and these batteries are no different. The group that designed these new microbatteries started with a design of an extremely fast-charging cathode by materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun. From there, the designers create the anode that could work in conjunction with it. They were able to optimize the battery’s microarchitecture so that its ion and electron transport between nodes was in a revolutionary three dimensional bicontinuous interdigitated microelectrode.[iii] This rapid exchange of micro-electrodes in a lithium-ion battery is what allows the makers of these batteries to control the duration and strength by simply allowing more or less flow. These new batteries can achieve power densities up to 7.4mW cm-2 μm-1 which matches the best super capacitors in the world and is about 2,000 times what other microbatteries can achieve that are currently on the market.[iv]

Applications in the Elctronics Field

The main application is obviously in compact and miniature electronics. Imagine a credit card size cell phone that you can recharge in under a minute, or as the other electronics catch up, an even smaller one that charges in a second. Even an ultra thin laptop that had the ability to run for days without requiring a charge is not out of reach with this new advancement. Also these batteries can prove very useful for high powered radio signals that can require a long lasting and high power output type of energy source. With these batteries the signal can go as much as 30 times farther or require a device that is thirty times smaller which could be used in military communication when messages need to travel long distances very quickly or smaller device sizes which would reduce space and weight when used in mobile situations. The applications in medical device development could also benefit from the use of microbattery technology. Mobile medical devices would no longer need to rely on massive brick size batteries with modern day limitations including speed and lifespan in addition to size. With such a new technology that is already producing such staggering results it is impossible to say where the possibilities stop.


[i] Ahlberg, Liz News Bureau Illinois “Small in Size, Big in Power” 4/16/2013

[ii] Nathan Clean Tech Inc. “New Micro-Batteries Show Great Potential” 4/17/2013

[iii] Pikul, James Braun, Paul et al. Nature Communications “High-power Lithium Ion Microbatteries from Interdigitated Three-Dimensional Bicontinuous Nanoporous Electrodes” Accept: 13 March 2013, Published 16 April 2013

[iv] Pikul, James Braun, Paul et al. Nature Communications “High-power Lithium Ion Microbatteries from Interdigitated Three-Dimensional Bicontinuous Nanoporous Electrodes” Accept: 13 March 2013, Published 16 April 2013

By | 2016-12-15T22:25:58+00:00 April 19th, 2013|Mechanical Engineering|0 Comments

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