In a proof of concept, the team behind the new battery technology has produced the world's longest flexible fiber battery, 140 meters long, to demonstrate that the material can be manufactured to arbitrarily long lengths.
The work is described today in the journal Materials Today. The new fibre battery is manufactured using novel battery gels and a standard fibre-drawing system that starts with a larger cylinder containing all the components and then heats it to just below its melting point.
The material is drawn through a narrow opening to compress all the parts to a fraction of their original diameter, while maintaining all the original arrangement of parts.
While others have attempted to make batteries in fibre form, says MIT postdoc Tural Khudiyey, a lead author on the paper], those were structured with key materials on the outside of the fibre, whereas this system embeds the lithium and other materials inside the fibre, with a protective outside coating, thus directly making this version stable and waterproof.
This is the first demonstration of a sub-kilometre long fibre battery which is both sufficiently long and exceptionally durable to have practical applications, he says. The fact that they were able to make a 140-meter fibre battery shows that "there's no obvious upper limit to the length. We could definitely do a kilometre-scale length", he said.
The 140-meter fiber produced so far has an energy storage capacity of 123 milliamp-hours, which can charge smartwatches or phones, he said.
The fibre device is only a few hundred microns in thickness, thinner than any previous attempts to produce batteries in fibre form. In addition to individual one-dimensional fibres, which can be woven to produce two-dimensional fabrics, the material can also be used in 3D printing or custom-shape systems to create solid objects, such as casings that could provide both the structure of a device and its power source.
To demonstrate this capability, a toy submarine was wrapped with the battery fibre to provide it with power. Incorporating the power source into the structure of such devices could lower the overall weight and so improve the efficiency and range they can achieve.