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Stretchable battery prototype may enhance wearable tech

Swatches | November 1, 2023 | By:

A bendable battery prototype being developed at the University of Houston. Images: University of Houston

Researchers at the University of Houston in Texas have created a stretchable fabric-based lithium-ion battery, broadening the future of wearable technology.

Currently, powering wearable technology is a challenge due to the rigidity of conventional batteries. Lithium-ion batteries also pose safety concerns because they use a flammable liquid electrolyte, which increases the risk that the battery may catch fire or explode in certain conditions.

The design of the stretchy battery prototype, devised by Haleh Ardebili, Ph.D., a mechanical engineering professor at the university, overcame this problem. The key to her success was using conductive silver fabric for the battery’s base and current collector.

The fully stretchable fabric-based lithium-ion battery prototype made with conductive silver fabric. The polymer electrolyte lies inside the battery.

“The weaved silver fabric was ideal for this since it mechanically deforms or stretches and still provides electrical conduction pathways necessary for the battery electrode to function well. The battery electrode must allow movement of both electrons and ions,” Ardebili explains.

She says the battery has the potential to power smart spacesuits or electronics embedded in clothing that monitor a person’s health, among other uses. 

“As a big science fiction fan, I could envision a ‘science-fiction-esque future’ where our clothes are smart, interactive and powered,” Ardebili says.

Right now, researchers are working on enhancing the battery’s design, materials and fabrication to expand its usage.

The research was published in the journal Extreme Mechanics Letters in June 2023.

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