Illinois researchers make tiny batteries mightier

As electronic devices continue to shrink in size, the batteries and other components in them do as well. But thin-film lithium-ion batteries’ limited size prevents them from packing a powerful enough punch to operate most modern electronics. Researchers at the University of Illinois developed a process for creating 3D microbatteries from different materials and fabrication techniques that reportedly show the highest peak power density of any existing microbatteries.

The unique process fills gel electrolyte material into 3D porous battery electrodes. It makes the microbattery packaging airtight. These packaged batteries have a higher energy and power density and are safer than other versions on the market.

“The gel-nature of the electrolyte gives us more time to seal the battery without the electrolyte spilling out. And, by default, the gel also makes for a safer lithium-ion battery because it is less likely to leak, which can be a problem in liquid electrolyte-filled lithium-ion batteries,” Paul Braun, University of Illinois materials science and engineering professor, said in a news release.

The researchers’ different battery manufacturing and packaging techniques could accelerate the development of tiny, high-performance, solid-state batteries with complex 3D electrode configurations.

The scientists see room for more improvement and are working to further increase the power and lifecycle of these batteries. The current prototype can be used for 200 charging cycles.

“Our microbattery could provide a microscale autonomous power for 132 days,” researcher Pengcheng Sun said in a news release.

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