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One of the technologies that researchers are scrambling to develop these days is wearable electronics. From MIT to Harvard, there have been many different conceptualisations floating around for this futuristic concept. Whatever the case, 3D printing usually plays a crucial role in providing the materials but a new joint project also shows its capacity to aid in energy retention and transmission tech. The project between KAIST and Harvard details the creation of 3D printed batteries for bendable electronics.

The batteries are a boon for wearable and flexible electronics development, though at this point just an early draft. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology successfully gave them customisable shapes which can conform to various structures. They can light up LEDs but not many other use cases are available at this time.

One of the problems with modern electronics is that they are shackled to the shapes of their batteries. As a result, manufacturers resign themselves to shaping their phones or tablets like bricks. While all other forms of electronics components have shrunk and changed formations over the years, batteries haven’t seen this same level of progress. A good solution to this is printing them in various shapes, such as rings, which is precisely what the researchers did. There are far more shapes that they produced, showcasing an H-shape and a U-shape (as in the image below).

Wearable & Flexible Electronics

KAIST Develop 3D Printed Batteries For Bendable Electronics

This isn’t Harvard’s first crack the field of flexible electronics components. They’ve previously displayed a range of formations and functions for the technology. Wearable and flexible electronics aren’t just useful consumer goods but could also be great for industries like medicine. Certain types of heart monitors and remote drug delivery systems could severely benefit from these 3D printed batteries.

There are also other notable improvements here, such as the use of Zinc-Ion instead of traditional Lithium as the core material for transmission. Zinc mixtures are safer to produce as they don’t contain the flammable elements of traditional batteries which combust under moist and oxygen-heavy environments. As a result, producing them will not require an ambient environment or dangerous solvents.

Aside from the safety concerns, 3D printed batteries are also cheaper and very efficient. According to the researchers they can charge up to their 50% capacity within two minutes. With further research, they could someday become household devices considering the vast improvements they present. Wearable heart monitors, micro-robots and flexible phones seem far more possible.

Featured image courtesy of KAIST and Harvard.

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