If you were to crack open an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or any other consumer electronic device, you’d see that a large, rectangular relic takes up about 40 percent of the interior: the battery.
A durable and long-lasting battery is certainly an important feature in mobile and wearable devices, but current lithium-ion battery technology, as powerful as it may be, is what keeps our mobile phones and fitness trackers from being much, much smaller.
However, as flexible electronics are leading a big conversation around semiconductors, flexible batteries are also demanding attention.
Built to last
It’s no surprise that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are going to play a huge role in the evolution of nanotechnology. Their tensile strength is greater than that of steel and their conductivity tops copper. Because of these properties, carbon nanotubes are driving the flexible battery bus.
A mat constructed of carbon nanotubes can serve as a lithium-ion battery’s current collector, a job usually left to a simple piece of foil. But the CNTs are outperforming their peers in a significant way.
“The battery's performance exceeded expectations, maintaining a steady voltage even after more than 288 folds and manipulations,” according to Printed Electronics World.
They continue that a similar battery with a traditional metal foil collector degraded with the first (and every subsequent) manipulation until a fatal fracture at the 94th.
Primed for a breakout
Demand for flexible sensors and devices is one the rise. And with all the obvious applications for the flexible battery (things like wearable and mobile devices and other personal electronic devices), plus some exciting possible applications (defense and health care are promising options as well), it’s no surprise that big money is beginning to flow into relevant research.
“It’s a $7 million research industry today, expected to be worth $400 million by 2025.”
Talk about ROI.
Considering that flexible batteries are on the radar of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, according to Printed Electronics World, this prediction doesn’t appear to be too much of a stretch. There’s even a company implementing these batteries into Smart Cards, which could power card locking and two-factor authentication features on a single credit card.
With all the promise of what has arrived, what’s yet to come is even more exciting. It’s still a very complex market and technology landscape, says IDTechEx, with market and tech requirements “in a constant state of flux.”
But as flexible and stretchable tech point the way, the semiconductor industry, no doubt, will work to power it with the next generation of batteries.