Email Print Share

"Power Print" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

A research team at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has demonstrated the ability to 3-D print a battery.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Printable power

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Recently engineers have developed miniature medical implants, flying insect-like robots, and tiny cameras and microphones that fit into a pair of glasses. The elephant in the room is that to power these diminutive devices, the batteries are comparatively huge. (Sound effect: elephant trumpet) Kind of defeats the purpose.

A team from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has demonstrated the world's first 3-D printed microbattery--small enough to fit into a tiny device, yet provide enough stored energy to power it.

(Sound effect: inkjet printer) A 3-D printed microbattery is a bit different than what your inkjet puts out. Unless you can imagine the inkjets as tiny toothpaste tube-like nozzles about the diameter of a human hair. These tubes extrude electrochemically-active materials, one layer at a time, that instantly harden to create stacks of tightly interlaced, ultrathin electrodes. The electrodes are then encased, an electrolytic solution is added and you've printed yourself a lithium-ion battery.

Performance? Comparable to commercial batteries--in charge and discharge rate, cycle life and energy densities. The big difference? They're about the size of a grain of sand. 

A different kind of "powerpoint" presentation.

(Sound effect: theme music) "The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.