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Brief Published: 14 Oct 2013

Disney’s Paper Batteries

Disney Paper Generator

Disney Research, the innovation and technology lab of US entertainment giant Disney, has developed a way to generate electricity without batteries. Paper Generators use a simple combination of paper, conductive adhesives, wires and silver-coated polyester to create an electric charge capable of powering LEDs, basic animations and sounds.

The system is based on the use of electrets – materials such as Teflon that can produce their own electrostatic charge. The electret is rubbed to give it a negative charge, and placed between two sheets of metal foil. Rubbing, sliding or tapping the foil releases the energy stored in the electret. The low-cost system is easily scalable, as some component parts can also be printed using conventional printers and conductive ink.

“We can imagine any number of ways to use this to add sights, sounds and other interactivity to books and other printed materials inexpensively and without having to worry about power sources,” said Ivan Poupyrev, director of Disney Research Pittsburgh’s interaction group. Poupyrev envisions future versions of the device providing energy for low-power devices such as e-readers or e-ink smartwatches.

Despite huge advances in flexible technologies, designing flexible battery power remains a sticking point. However, promising research is emerging, such as LG’s bendy cable battery, which the South Korean electronics maker claims will be ready for production in just a few years. Read more about the future of flexible technology in Elastic Tech, part of the macro trend Agile Futures.