Engineers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have created a lithium-ion battery that can be spray-painted onto virtually any surface.
Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, explained that "this means traditional packaging for batteries has given way to a much more flexible approach that allows all kinds of new design and integration possibilities for storage devices."
The innovation comes as Apple and other technology designers seek sleeker and ever-more powerful batteries to power laptops and hand-held devices. They've been pushing engineers to create unconventional, more space-efficient batteries.
"There has been a lot of interest in recent times in creating power sources with an improved form factor, and this is a big step forward in that direction."
Together with Ajayan, Rice graduate student Neelam Singh and her team spent numerous hours formulating, mixing and testing paints for each of the five layered components; two current collectors, a cathode, an anode and a polymer separator in the middle.
The paint layers were airbrushed onto ceramics, glass and stainless steel, and on diverse shapes such as the curved surface of a ceramic mug, to test how well they bond.
One short coming of the technology is in the use of difficult-to-handle liquid electrolytes and the need for a dry and oxygen-free environment when making the new device.
The researchers are looking for components that would allow construction in the open air for a more efficient production process and which can be of greater commercial viability.
In addition to powering mobile technologies, Singh, further whole heartedly believes that the technology could be integrated with solar cells to give any surface a stand-alone energy capture and storage capability. They could be added to home-building materials to store energy collected by solar panels during the day, which could be then used at nighttime.
The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.