Researchers develop longer-lasting, more powerful battery

By
Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Everyone has experienced the frustration that comes from sitting on the Main Green and realizing your laptop’s battery is running out. But thanks to the work of Professor of Engineering Tayhas Palmore and Hyun-Kon Song, a former postdoctoral research associate at Brown who now works as a researcher at LG Chemical Ltd., a longer-lasting, more powerful and smaller battery may soon be a realistic proposition.

After almost two years of work, Palmore and Song have created a prototype for a plastic hybrid battery that is flexible and biodegradable. The battery functions like a hybrid device, acting as both a battery – with an ability to store energy over longer periods of time – and a capacitor – a device which can discharge large amounts of energy.

“The benefit of our battery is that it has the properties of two electronic devices in one device,” Palmore said. “When you make a discovery like this, people think of what can they do now that they couldn’t before because of that hybrid property.”

Originally, Palmore and Song were interested in examining the limits of batteries, in order to extend their lifespans. The scientists coated plastic in a chemical compound called polypyrrole and created a completely organic battery smaller than an iPod Nano that can be molded into any shape during production.

The battery is currently in a prototype stage and is not as efficient as mainstream commercial batteries. While the device is comparable to current ultracapacitors in terms of power, its storage capacity is still closer to that of an alkaline battery, Palmore said.

“What we have now is a proof of concept,” she said. “We are now working on improvements to make it perform better.”

Palmore is working to commercialize the battery, and she sees the discovery as having great benefits for consumers once perfected.

“Any improvement in battery technology makes things more comfortable, more convenient,” Palmore said. Since many products are made from plastic, the jump from a plastic battery to putting the plastic battery in every day plastic things is not that big, Palmore said. Also, because of its malleable properties, the battery can be easily incorporated into many things, including textiles.

“Once in a while you make a discovery that opens the door to many new things,” Palmore said.

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