Stretching technology

20 February 2020

In the third part of a series on batteries we look at developments in battery materials for wearable electronics.

20 February 2020

Muriel Cozier

The concept of wearable electronics, be they implanted or worn externally, is part of everyday life. But developments in this area can be limited by the need use lithium ion batteries as a power source. As wearable electronic devices are in contact with skin, the battery material needs to be robust, highly ionically conductive and flexible. Developing solid electrolyte materials is critical to meet the performance demands of modern lithium ion batteries while providing increases in mechanical stability and safety.

Researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, US, have published work in which they explain the development of a stretchable battery. Such batteries are in existence, but they have many drawbacks, presenting unacceptable safety hazards for use in wearable technology.

The research team has designed a supramolecular lithium ion conductor (SLIC) in which the ionic conductivity is provided by a polyether backbone. Mechanical properties are provided via the dynamically bonded 2-ureido-4-pyrimidone (UPy) back bone unit. The material has demonstrated several distinct advantages compared with previously reported polymeric ion conductors. The dynamic crosslinking of the UPy units in the SLIC allow for a unique decoupling of mechanical properties and ionic conductivity, which is not commonly observed in polymer electrolytes. This, said the research team, allows for the creation of a polymer electrolyte with ‘record-high toughness and high ionic conductivity.’ This property, amongst others observed, means that SLIC should serve as an ‘excellent candidate for an ion-transport polymer in deformable battery systems,’ the research team added. 

Nature Communications:

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