An international team of researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and Stanford University has developed a new material for making batteries. That material is flexible, strong, soft, and made from wood pulp.
A wood based aerogel, the material is created by breaking down wood fibers until they are about one millionth as thick as normal, then freezing and freeze drying them. The molecules are stabilized and then painted with an ink that conducts electricity. The result is something about as soft as a mattress but a little firmer.
These batteries, the researchers pointed out, are like human lungs in that they contain a much greater surface area than one would think. Because the interior is so porous, if you unfolded one of these small batteries completely, it would cover most of a football pitch. All of that surface can be used to conduct or store electricity. That means more storage capacity than traditional batteries in a smaller space. Battery efficiency is constantly improving, and the effectiveness of batteries is expected to double by the year 2020, and materials like this will certainly help that along.
The size and flexibility does not sacrifice strength, and the little batteries can be ben and squeezed with impunity. While flexible electronics have existed for a while, the shock resistant nature of this new material is ground breaking. One potential use includes clothing, provided that clothing as a lining between the battery material and the wearer. Self-heating survival gear is one such option. Another potential use is within electric car bodies. Using such batteries could extend the efficiently of such vehicles even further, allowing them to drive longer without being recharged. The shock resistant nature of the batteries also makes them safer for use in cars, because they’re less likely to be damaged in accidents, and certainly less likely to leak harmful material.