Researchers create a battery that bends and flexes

If smartphone makers ever get folding devices ready for the mainstream market in a significant way, one thing that the devices will need is flexible batteries. As it is today, batteries are rigid devices that can overheat when bent or broken. Scientists from ETH Zurich have created a new type of battery that is flexible.The researchers say that the battery can be bent, stretched, and twisted and still functions. The battery is seen as a significant potential benefit for flexible electronics and smartphones. The ability to flex would allow the battery to be placed inside the entire smartphone, even on hinge areas.

The team says that the flexible battery could also be ideal for future rollable electronics. The prototype flexible thin-film battery can be bent and twisted without interrupting the supply of power delivered to the device. One key to the performance of the battery is the special electrolyte that it uses.

The new electrolyte was discovered at ETH by a doctoral student called Xi Chen. The battery the team has developed is the first time that researchers have used flexible components to allow the entire battery to be flexible. The battery uses bendable polymer composite for the anode and cathode. The interior surface has a thin layer of micronized silver flakes.

The flakes overlap like roof tiles and don't lose contact with each other when the battery is bent. If the flakes did lose contact with each other, power could still flow through the carbon-containing composite. The battery has a water-based gel electrode that uses a high concentration of lithium salt. The team says that the resulting battery has numerous potential applications. One example is that the battery could be sewn directly into fabrics.