Flexible batteries power the future of wearable technology

August 11, 2017
Credit: University of Manchester

The rapid development of wearable technology has received another boost from a new development using graphene for printed electronic devices.

New research from The University of Manchester has demonstrated flexible battery-like devices printed directly on to textiles using a simple screen-printing technique.

The current hurdle with wearable technology is how to power devices without the need for cumbersome battery packs. Devices known as supercapacitors are one way to achieve this. A acts similarly to a battery but allows for rapid charging which can fully charge devices in seconds.

Now a solid-state flexible supercapacitor device has been demonstrated by using conductive -oxide ink to print onto cotton fabric. As reported in the journal 2-D Materials the printed electrodes exhibited excellent mechanical stability due to the strong interaction between the ink and textile substrate.

Further development of graphene-oxide printed supercapacitors could turn the vast potential of into the norm. High-performance sportswear that monitors performance, embedded health-monitoring devices, lightweight military gear, new classes of and even wearable computers are just some of the applications that could become available following further research and development.

To power these new wearable devices, the energy storage system must have reasonable mechanical flexibility in addition to high energy and power density, good operational safety, long cycling life and be low cost.

Credit: University of Manchester

Dr Nazmul Karim, Knowledge Exchange Fellow, the National Graphene Institute and co-author of the paper said: "The development of graphene-based flexible textile supercapacitor using a simple and scalable printing technique is a significant step towards realising multifunctional next generation wearable e-textiles."

"It will open up possibilities of making an environmental friendly and cost-effective smart e-textile that can store energy and monitor human activity and physiological condition at the same time".

Graphene-oxide is a form of graphene which can be produced relatively cheaply in an ink-like solution. This solution can be applied to textiles to create supercapacitors which become part of the fabric itself.

Dr Amor Abdelkader, also co-author of the paper said: "Textiles are some of the most flexible substrates, and for the first time, we printed a stable device that can store energy and be as flexible as cotton.

"The is also washable, which makes it practically possible to use it for the future smart clothes. We believe this work will open the door for printing other types of devices on using 2-D-materials inks."

The University of Manchester is currently completing the construction of its second major graphene facility to complement the National Graphene Institute (NGI). Set to be completed 2018, the £60m Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) will be an international research and technology facility.

The GEIC will offer the UK the unique opportunity to establish a leading role in graphene and related two-dimensional materials. The GEIC will be primarily industry-led and focus on pilot production and characterisation.

Explore further: Researchers develop simple way to fabricate micro-supercapacitors with high energy density

Related Stories

Graphene proves a perfect fit for wearable devices

December 17, 2015

Cheap, flexible, wireless graphene communication devices such as mobile phones and healthcare monitors can be directly printed into clothing and even skin, University of Manchester academics have demonstrated.

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics

August 23, 2016

A future of soft robots that wash your dishes or smart T-shirts that power your cell phone may depend on the development of stretchy power sources. But traditional batteries are thick and rigid—not ideal properties for ...

Recommended for you

The microscopic origin of efficiency droop in LEDs

November 21, 2017

Light-emitting diodes—or LEDs, as they are commonly known—have been slowly replacing incandescent light bulbs in applications ranging from car taillights to indicators on electronics since their invention in the 1960s.

Borophene shines alone as 2-D plasmonic material

November 20, 2017

An atom-thick film of boron could be the first pure two-dimensional material able to emit visible and near-infrared light by activating its plasmons, according to Rice University scientists.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.