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Brief Published: 29 Jul 2014

Ultra-Thin, Flexible Batteries

ZincPoly battery

A Californian start-up is on the verge of commercialising a printable, flexible battery that could revolutionise the design and development of sensors and wearable devices.

Imprint Energy's ultra-thin ZincPoly battery can be customised and printed in any size and shape, freeing up designers to fit devices to the curves of the body and other flexible materials with fewer design restrictions.

By using zinc – an abundant and non-toxic material – the ZincPoly battery will be much cheaper, more sustainable and easier to manufacture than highly reactive lithium-based alternatives.

Traditional zinc batteries are non-rechargeable: they form growths in the watery acid in their casing, which eventually stop the battery from working. Imprint Energy uses a highly conductive polymer instead, making its batteries smaller and more flexible.

Imprint Energy has been in talks about using its batteries in clothes and on parts of the body such as the eye. The company is collaborating with the US military on using the batteries in wearable sensors to monitor soldiers' health. ZincPoly batteries are also a clear candidate for powering the multitude of sensors required for developing the Internet of Things (IoT).

The company – already backed by the University of California, where the initial research was carried out – has secured $6m in additional venture funding to bring its printable, rechargeable batteries to market.

As the drive for greater mobility and practicality continues, lighter and thinner materials are at the forefront of research. Take a look at Flat Tech, part of the Materials Focus 2016, for more.