Scientists at the University of Leeds have engineered a new type of polymer gel, which they hope will replace standard lithium ion batteries in consumer electronics.
The new technology should, they believe, come at a fraction of the price without compromising on performance.
Currently the battery packs of choice for consumer electronics run on lithium ion (Li-ion), based on cell technology.
They comprise of a chemical filler which is held apart by a porous polymeric film separator. This allows a flow of lithium ions (which carry the charge) between the electrodes and also keeps the electrodes apart to avoid a short circuit.
The new gel means the separator is no longer required.
The high speed manufacturing process the team have developed and patented works by squashing the gel between an anode and cathode at a speed of up to 10m per minute.
This creates a strip of material which is just nano-meters thick but more importantly is highly conductive.
The strip can then be cut to any size, and can therefore be engineered to any bespoke design to fit the dimensions of any consumer product.
The cells are very safe both in the manufacturing process and in the end product; the electrodes are sealed together in such a manner that there is no need for excess solvents, which also makes the process green.
Head of the team Professor Ian Ward said “The polymer gel looks like a solid film, but it actually contains about 70% liquid electrolyte. It’s made using the same principles as making a jelly: you add lots of hot water to ‘gelatine’ - in this case there is a polymer and electrolyte mix - and as it cools it sets to form a solid but flexible mass”.