We live in an era of the technological boom, of high-speed machines and gadgets working on our demand. We shape the technology for our comfort, mould it into something of our assistance and keep gifting ourselves with its benefits. There is one thing that governs this all. If that thing, goes out, all our technology remains futile! Still guessing?
Well, It’s the ‘energy’ that has it all. Can we imagine even our basic devices to last even a second without that?
The energy is more like breath to our technology. When this goes off, our gadgets die, systems fail and innovations stop. In scientific terms, batteries provide us with the energy to feed our gadgets. Batteries, conventionally have been facing criticism by environmentalists especially for the way they are dumped after usage, that leaves serious impacts on the environment. It is known widely that lead and mercury are the toxic ingredients that not just severely affect the flora and fauna but also have irreplaceable repercussions on human health. Moreover, batteries are under a constant threat of explosion if mishandled. This had concerned the researchers worldwide before they came up with a highly useful solution to the stated problem. They invented a revolutionary bio- degradable and ultra-slim device out of paper that they called – The Paper Battery.
A paper battery is a rechargeable battery that has carbon nanotubes spread over a sheet of cellulose that primarily makes the paper we write on. The carbon nanotubes are artificially designed structures that make up most of the cost of this type of power device. As the substrate is made of paper that has ninety percent cellulose, the battery is completely biodegradable and biocompatible. There are no traces of mercury, lead, cadmium or any other heavy metals required to keep the device working. So, while disposal of the battery, there won’t be any general concerns that usually exist with the conventional batteries. Unlike lithium-ion batteries that are bulky, these are light and can be delved into any shape as per the size of our device. They offer a solution to the problem of risk of explosion and that of corrosion involved while dealing with the batteries used these days. They can be stacked to increase the potential drop across them by still being of the same size. Apart from being serving as a power device alone, they can be used as supercapacitors that produce high energy if they are discharged at once without any explosion or harm. Paper batteries are way better than conventional batteries not only because of the above-stated uniqueness they own but because of the dynamic operation range they withstand. It has no trace of water in its electrolyte, so nothing freezes or evaporates at extremities. The enlarged surface area helps in efficient heat dissipation, thus ensuring the battery doesn’t cease to work due to overuse. No wonder that owing to its size and bio-degradability, it is a perfect choice for a powering device in pacemakers buried close to the heart. They can take human blood, urine or sweat as an electrolyte which makes their use highly lucrative for human health.
This nanotech innovation is credited to the scientists of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, specialises in the field of material science, energy and chemicals pooled in their efforts to invent a prototype in august 2007. It was successfully demonstrated later that a battery of size of a postal stamp could drive a device needing 1.5 V. Though researchers are progressive, the assumptions and expectations incredibly signify that this technology will be promising in future.
An ordinary xerox paper can serve as a substrate over which a specially formulated ionic paste is levied, called the carbon ink. The carbon ink is made up of carbon nanotubes which make up the electrode structures. The paper, which was initially soaked into an electrolyte, is then kept into an oven and heated till no hint of water remains. The open side is then covered with a laminate of lithium. Finally, the metal contacts are provided.
Batteries cause a mammoth loss to our ecology every year. Americans alone consume five million batteries a year. The toys, vehicles, PDAs, mobiles, computers etc. are the gamut of things that need to be powered essentially. But then, the waste that these batteries generate, disrupts the ecological balance by entering into the food web through water or through the land, wherever disposed, and affecting the flora and fauna lately. The environment-friendly solution ‘the paper battery’, thus finds its space in such a scenario.
Paper batteries are already in use some places across the world. A German healthcare brand KSW Microtech is using this for supervising blood temperature levels. There are several other brands like Paper Battery Company, Vendum batteries etc. striving on this technology. The carbon nanotechnology is an expensive technology now, but this could be profitable if produced on large scale. The assumptions about the paper batteries’ viability are promising and they are expected to flood the markets soon.