Researchers at Rice University have developed a truly game-changing battery technology -- paintable or spray-on lithium-ion batteries. This new technology allows any surface to become a battery, which could lead to major advancements not just in energy storage, but in solar power generation, too.
The Rice team formulated, mixed and tested various paints to make up the five layered components of a lithium-ion battery: two current collectors, a cathode, an anode and a polymer separator in the middle. Once the right formulations were found, the team sprayed them onto different surfaces including ceramic tiles, glass, stainless steel, flexible polymers and even a beer stein to test how they would bond to the surfaces. Then the real fun began when they put the painted-on battery to work.
According to Rice University, "In the first experiment, nine bathroom tile-based batteries were connected in parallel. One was topped with a solar cell that converted power from a white laboratory light. When fully charged by both the solar panel and house current, the batteries alone powered a set of light-emitting diodes that spelled out “RICE” for six hours; the batteries provided a steady 2.4 volts."
Not only did the batteries work and with a consistent capacity, but they were able to go through 60 charge-discharge cycles with just a small decline in capacity.
The researchers have filed a patent for the technology, though they plan to continue tweaking things to boost its performance. The team sees the batteries being painted onto tiles that can be snapped together in a variety of configurations and say that since spray painting is already an industrial process, it could easily be scaled up and incorporated into the battery industry.
But perhaps the most promising application could be integrating them with spray-on solar cells, which could create an energy generation and storage system that could be painted onto any surface.