Engineers have succeeded in developing batteries that are flexible and stretchable. While it’s certainly not a new concept, what’s remarkable is the fact that these batteries can stretch to more than 150 percent of their compacted size and can be adjusted in multiple locations, providing double the run-time to gadgets.
Wearable gadgets have started to make their presence felt, but their foremost limiting factor is battery capacity. Their diminutive form-factor makes it difficult to embed bigger, higher capacity batteries, severely restricting their longevity. However, given the fact that these wearable gadgets could soon become an integral part of our lives, scientists and engineers are busy improving battery technology and incorporating ever higher capacities, while keeping the form-factor as small as possible.
While the raw-materials used in the flexible batteries are the same that go into making today’s conventional batteries, it’s the design innovation that has made the breakthrough possible. Engineers have drawn inspiration from origami and kirigami (where paper is cut as well as folded), to design the battery that can be extended and retracted like a car antenna, even while it’s powering a device.
This simply means the stretchable battery can slide into places where normal batteries can’t go. For example, smartwatches can now have batteries that reside in the wrist-band. Moreover, the new design allows the battery to expand more than 150 percent of their compacted size. This offers unprecedented design options for modern wearable gadgets.
Being able to compact and stretch batteries may not be a first in battery technology, but when scientists attempted to do this a while back, these batteries would often break or tear when folded. However, the batteries produced by the team from the U.S and China have solved this problem by placing carefully calculated soft creases at various points along the battery’s body, allowing it to be extensively folded.
Owing to the flexibility, these batteries could double the life of a smartwatch between charges. Additionally, being made from conventional materials, the manufacturing process is reasonably straightforward and cheap, assured the engineers. However, as with any innovation, there is one trade-off with the flexible battery. These batteries can’t store as much charge as a comparable rectangular one.
Though these new flexible batteries won’t be breaking any records for battery life, they can more than make up for the trade-off with their ability to squeeze themselves in tight spaces with ease, thereby allowing newer design innovations, said the engineers.
[Image Credit: Brent Lewin / Getty Images, YouTube Screen Grab]