Ultra-thin, flexible screen-printed batteries for portable devices and renewable energy are closer to reality - thanks to a project by University of New South Wales, University of Queensland and Brisbane manufacturer Printed Energy.
Printed Energy isn't a bad partner to team up with on this, either. The company has patented technologies in printing batteries and photovoltaics - and a laboratory in Arizona focused on energy storage and materials science.
The $12 million project received a grant from the Cooperative Research Centres Projects scheme to the tune of $2 million that will let partners (Sunset Power International and Sonovia Holdings among others) bring the technology to market.
Printed Energy's solid state batteries are a thin, flexible format – printed in a roll-to-roll process like a newspaper – that can be adapted to almost any shape. It has potential applications in powering everything from disposable medical devices, smart cards and wearable electronics to large-scale solar panels and energy storage.
"The highly innovative and unique nature of this technology makes it ideal for powering sensors, devices for the Internet or Things, disposable healthcare devices and eventually, even for large-scale application to help manage the intermittent nature of electricity generated by solar panels," said Rodger Whitby, CEO of Printed Energy and of the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund.
Mark Hoffman, UNSW's Dean of Engineering, agreed. "Storage has been the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to renewable energy. The world is crying out for storage solutions, and this partnership has the potential to deliver on that urgent need. What's exciting is that this technology also has immediate applications in wearables and small-scale devices."
Chris Greig, director of University of Queensland's Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and the UQ Energy Initiative, is excited about the potential.
"Australia has seen a decline in manufacturing industries in recent decades. This technology represents not just an opportunity for us to be involved in cutting-edge science and innovation, but presents a real opportunity for the next generation of Australian manufacturing," Grieg says.
"Our mission is to foster and facilitate advances in science and engineering which are technologically, economically and socially sustainable. This project fits the bill perfectly and the range of applications is probably only limited by our imaginations."
First applications of the technology will be in small-scale devices, with development work in large-scale uses to be explored by the partners over the next three years, relying on Printed Energy's proprietary designs. UQ's the Dow Centre will coordinate the research effort, with UQ's Lianzhou Wang and UNSW's Da-Wei Wang driving the development.
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