How to Make a Battery Out of Office Paper & Nanotubes

By Brett Israel | December 9, 2009 6:44 pm

paper-battery-webStanford University researchers think they’ve stumbled upon a way to transform ordinary sheets of office paper into batteries and superconductors. By painting a carbon nanotube ink, which can collect electric charge, on plain copier paper, and then dipping the coated paper into a lithium ion solution and an electrolyte, they can create a current and store it within the paper battery.

The scientists had previously experimented with making batteries using a similar process of painting nanomaterial ink onto a thin layer of plastic. But in an unexpected twist, they found that pores in paper fibers make it hold the ink better than plastic, for a more durable battery [The New York Times]. The research team, led by Yi Cui, found that you can even crumple up the paper batteries or soak them in acid, and they’ll still work just fine. They hope their technology, which was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, can usher in a new era of lightweight, low-cost batteries.

The researchers say the paper batteries could be 20 percent lighter than metal ones and could release their current faster as well. The team says that adaptations to the technique in the future could allow for simply painting the nanotube ink and active materials onto surfaces such as walls [BBC News]. Supercapacitors (energy storage devises that hold an electric charge for a short time) made from the same technology worked for over 40,000 charge-discharge cycles.

One application, according to the researchers, could be for massive energy storage on the electric grid, which would help with the storage needs of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar. Some commentators are also suggesting that the paper batteries could be ideal for electric cars; however, the Standford researchers say they have no immediate plans to develop car batteries. Check out a video of the battery in action below:

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DISCOVER: 9 Ways Carbon Nanotubes Just Might Rock the World

Image: L.A. Cicero / Stanford University

Video: YouTube / StanfordUniversity

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
  • Em

    This comment really doesn’t have to do with the topic, just proofreading.
    You may want to remove the second “from” in the last sentence of the third paragraph.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Brett Israel

    Thanks for the heads up, Em.

  • http://www.csatnet.com Brian Clark

    We would be interested in testing nano tube technology. Also interested in manufacturing in the area, which is in a HUBzone business area.

    Our company focus is on green power for emergency communications to areas where fuel and the power grub have been compromised or even not available.

    We are using solar and wind generator system, but have heavy batteries for storing this energy.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Helga Kilday

    Hey, I recently came to this website and I’ve visited it everyday because that so that you can stay updated. Maintain up the good function.

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