First it was bendable electronics starting off with the electric-eye camera that produced studio-quality images followed by the wearable solar panels. A few days ago, two distinguished professors from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois unveiled the world’s first stretchable batteries which are also called “clever batteries”. The two professors who made the research possible are Yonggang Huang of the Northwestern University and John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois. Both Huang and Rogers were also the ones who conducted the study for the elastic camera in August of 2008.
The online journal, Nature Communications published the details of the research on February 26, 2013.
An article from NBC News quoted Huang saying in an email sent to NBC that the flexible battery that is capable of being stretched up to about 300 percent from its normal size and can still be made to work. He then continued that the battery will “enable true integration with stretchable electronics in a small package.”
There is no need for power cords and electrical gadgets to supply power ad recharge the batteries. This means it is possible to use the batteries anywhere including inside the human body. According to NBC News, the background of the researchers is a great sign that the goal of the study is to offer a power source for medical applications aside from the bendable electronic devices such as bendy camera and the wearable solar panels that were developed earlier.
The battery uses lithium-ion that is the same material used in the ordinary batteries in the market today. The only difference, aside from the obvious that it is encased in stretchable material, is that it can be recharged using cordless technology for about 8 hours.
To make the battery work, Huang and Rogers worked on what they call a “pop-up” technology work. They used tiny individual storage battery components that were arranged side-by-side. Wavy metal wires were then packed very closely and connected to the components. These metal wires, called metal wire interconnects are responsible for making the battery stretch. Huang explained that the mechanism is like a “spring on spring” with the wires connecting the components forming an “S” shape. These are the first wires to stretch. Within that “S” shape are tiny “S” shapes which are the next to stretch after the “S” shape that interconnects the compartments.
He explained that this is the reason batteries continue to work despite being stretched to up to 300% of its original size. Further, he revealed that the battery could last and work through 20 recharge cycles.
With this development, it can be expected that other stretchable electronic devices will be developed. Although it is perceived that the first stretchable electronics to be developed after this are medical equipment such as implantable health monitors that can send images of the human organs for the purpose of research or to aid highly advanced medical procedures. There are also speculations that with these stretchable batteries, it might not be long before stretchable mobile devices can be seen in the market. In fact, there were speculations in 2012 that we would be seeing bendable mobile devices within the year as reported in BBC News.