Brunel scientists develop flexible, wearable 3D-printed battery

3d printed battery developed by brunel university

Scientists at Brunel University London have become the first to devise a simple and affordable method of 3D printing a flexible battery. 

These days, the long hours spent charging our wearables and gadgets represent the most significant amount of time we spend away from them. Portable chargers have already started to fill that powerless void. Now, it looks as though technology developed at Brunel University London could keep devices running for longer.

With the help of readily available household supplies and a 3D printer, scientists at Brunel have devised a flexible, wearable battery that can be implanted into a plastic wristband. The technique opens the door for experimental wearable designs that could provide a handy source power for phones, medical implants and more.

Read more: Researchers look to protect 3D printers from cyber attacks

3D printing a supercapacitor

Although 3D printers are typically limited to design studios and maker’s workshops, it may not be too long before they are more common in everyday homes and offices. With that in mind, printing a personal battery that doubles as a wearable seems a good idea.

According to a blog post published by Brunel, the process is straightforward: “The printer squirts stacks of silicone, glue and gel electrolyte pastes like a layer cake, to make what looks like a clear festival wristband. Sandwiched inside is a supercapacitor, which stores energy like a battery, but on its surface and without chemical reactions.”

The project has been undertaken by Brunel’s Cleaner Electronics Research Group. Its focus is to reduce the environmental impact of electronic consumer products in pursuit of sustainable progress.

“This is the first time a flexible supercapacitor including all its components has been produced by 3D printing,” said the group’s Milad Areir, co-author of the report, A study of 3D printed flexible supercapacitors onto silicone rubber substrates.

“The most popular way to produce them is screen printing, but with that, you can’t print the frame of the supercapacitor on silicone. Our technique brings it all together into one process with one machine. It will definitely save time and costs on expensive materials,” said Areir.

Read more: Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

A step forward for battery technology

Researchers around the world have been pioneering novel ways to create flexible supercapacitors. But many of those methods are costly and rely on 3D laser selective melting machines and multiple stages to print different parts.

Brunel’s work suggests that a simple, powered-up wristband can be made using inexpensive items you can find in any hardware store, instead of expensive metals or semiconductors. The flexible batteries also stand up to stress tests without losing power.

“This has developed a novel 3D printing method for manufacturing flexible supercapacitators, by one single continuous process using low-cost flexible silicone compatible with the electrode, current collector and electrolyte materials,” the study says.

According to Brunel, it may soon be simple for anybody to print their own battery. All they will need is an open-source printer connected by USB to a syringe driver and a motor. After that, it’s just a case of printing the layers in a honeycomb pattern.

The simple design means that less material needs printing and the process is fast. It also leaves room for designers to experiment with different shapes.

The process is easy to copy, according to the study, and shows 3D printing using paste extrusion can be used to develop more sophisticated electronic devices with different mixes of paste.

“In future it can be used for mobile phones,” said Milad. “For example, if the phone battery is dead, you could plug the phone into the supercapacitor wristband and it could act as a booster pack, providing enough power to get to the next charging point.”

On 28 & 29 November 2017, we will be holding our Battery and Energy Storage Show event at The Slate at Warwick University Campus, UK, featuring a wide range of specialist speakers from both the private and public sectors.


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Alan Turing Institute to monitor Amsterdam’s smart, 3D-printed bridge

alan turing institute design and build bridge in amsterdam

The Alan Turing Institute has announced an ambitious project to install sensors on and monitor a 3D-printed smart bridge in Amsterdam. 

Alan Turing is widely credited as being the father of modern computing. The institute named after him has pioneering ambitions to a similar degree, having been founded by five of the UK’s top universities in 2015.

Now, a research team from the Alan Turing Institute has announced is partnering with 3D printing specialists MX3D to design, build and monitor a 3D printed stainless steel bridge.

The 12-meter long structure will be the largest of its kind in the world and is due to be installed across an Amsterdam canal in 2018.

Read more: Driverless boats to launch on Amsterdam canals

Stability and local environment

As well as being 3D printed, the bridge will be embedded with a network of sensors to collect data on structural measurements and environmental factors.

Data points will include strain, displacement, vibration, air quality and temperature. The result will be a bridge that engineers can observe the bridge’s use and performance in real time, while taking in the big picture over the course of its lifespan.

Data scientists from the Alan Turing Institute will also be inputting all of the information gathered by the bridge in Amsterdam into a ‘digital twin’ of the structure. This will create a living computer model designed to imitate the physical bridge with growing accuracy as more data is gathered.

As well as providing local authorities in Amsterdam with live information on environmental factors in the city, the team hopes to gain insights that will inform the designs of future 3D-printed metallic structures.

Professor Mark Girolami, director of the Turing-Lloyd’s Register Foundation Programme for data-centric engineering, has suggested that the multidisciplinary approach to the build and implementation of the bridge makes it unique.

“The 3D bridge being installed by the MX3D team next year will be a world-first in engineering,” he said. “This data-centric, multidisciplinary approach to capturing the bridge’s data will also mark a step-change in the way bridges are designed, constructed, and managed, generating valuable insights for the next generation of bridges and other major public structures.”

“It is a powerful embodiment of what data-centric engineering can deliver as a discipline, and I look forward to seeing the bridge in action from summer next year.”

The MX3D bridge digital twin model developed by the Steel Structures research group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London.

Read more: Dutch city of Dordrecht uses IoT for smart city planning

New design language

By making sensors an intrinsic part of the structure, the research team hopes that this will set a precedent for smarter bridges in future. Embedding technology could have a significant impact at every stage of the process.

Scientists from Imperial College London will work with MX3D to carry out material testing on the 3D printed steel, in an effort to anticipate the impact of pedestrian or cyclists over the bridge and inform its design before construction starts. Software engineers from Autodesk and The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions will be exploring new ways to use and connect the bridge data with other aspects of the city.

As Gijs van der Velden, chief operating officer of MX3D, pointed out: “The MX3D technique offers engineers the freedom of working with metals in an entirely new way. The Alan Turing Institute’s digital twin of the bridge will help with the creation of a new design language. We hope that this data-centric engineering method will speed up the introduction of this exciting new production technique into the construction market.”

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NASA Wants to Use 3D-Printed Parts for Future Rocket Engines

Printing a Rocket, One Part at a Time

HRL Laboratories, known for developing high-performance circuits, data extraction, and communications technology, has received an award from NASA that will allow them to 3D-print ceramic rocket engine components.

The award comes as part of NASA’s Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion program, and will capitalize on HRL’s research into converting preceramic resins into ceramic materials capable of withstanding intense heat. Their findings were published in Science in January 2016.

“With our new 3D printing process we can take full advantage of the many desirable properties of this silicon oxycarbide ceramic, including high hardness, strength and temperature capability as well as resistance to abrasion and corrosion,” said program manager Dr. Tobias A. Schaedler last year.

3D-Printed Stairway to (the) Heaven(s)

With the NASA award, HRL can now begin to improve their 3D-printing technology, and the process used to make ceramic parts. The company’s success is especially beneficial to NASA, which will see reductions in both cost and development time. This is largely due to the relatively lower cost of the preceramic resin, which is also easier to use and more flexible than other materials.

“High-temperature ceramics are notoriously difficult to process with conventional methods,” explained Schaedler, in a press release. “3D printing could completely change what ceramic parts look like and where they are applied in rocket engines.”

Here’s How 3D Printing is Changing Our World
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HRL will work with micro-spacecraft company Vector, which will design new rocket engines, as well as determine how 3D-printed components can be incorporated into its own line of launch vehicles and rockets, like the Vector-R (Rapide) and the Vector-H (Heavy). Vector, comprised of several industry experts from SpaceX, Boeing, and others, recently had a successful launch of their Vector-R prototype, and aims to become one of the more affordable and least restrictive commercial spaceflight companies in the world.

The post NASA Wants to Use 3D-Printed Parts for Future Rocket Engines appeared first on Futurism.


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