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Blog Post By Harriet Gordon

Printing batteries

Yet researchers at the Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) are widening the scope even further; they are developing the latest, longest lasting batteries using co-extrusion printing.

PARC, a subsidiary of Xerox, has been creating electric-vehicle lithium-ion batteries that can hold 20% more energy than traditional designs. Coming up against many barriers in the development process, the eventual solution was apparently inspired by striped toothpaste, and depended upon co-extrusion printing.

To create the new batteries, PARC mixed the two materials they needed with an organic material to form pastes, and fed them into a printhead. The printhead pushes the pastes onto a metal foil, creating thin strips. The organic material is removed when the substrate is dried, leaving a cathode that can store a fifth more energy than a battery manufactured in the standard way.

Whilst at the moment it is only the cathode that can be printed, PARC is now working with an American government agency to try to print the entire battery. Solar panels are currently made using this method; the silver wire that conducts the current can be printed at 20 microns rather than 50, casting smaller shadows so allowing more sunlight to reach the cell.

Although co-extrusion printing is still a long way from becoming a service that conventional printers can offer, these new developments just go to show that the industry has its eyes firmly fixed on the future.
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