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Novel laser method to create tiny smartphone batteries

Tuesday, Mar 22, 2016,15:13 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Scientists have developed a new efficient laser-writing method to fabricate environment friendly, tiny energy storage units like microbatteries and micro fuel cells for smartphones and other hand-held devices.

In the race to design smaller devices and smartphones, a key factor is decreasing the sizes of components, researchers said. As the demand for thinner and lighter microelectronic devices increases, manufacturers often are limited by how oddly shaped the energy sources must become to make them conform to the smaller space.

Researchers at the University of Missouri in US, have developed a method of transferring an energy source to virtually any shape. The direct laser writing (DLW) method and technique has seen a rapid advancement in the past decade, said assistant professor Jian Lin. The main goal of our research was to find an efficient and cost-effective way to integrate nanostructures with micro energy storage units for applications in micro-electronics, said Lin.

Our lab decided to test whether catalysts could be synthesised and patterned on any surface by a one-step laser processing method to produce microbatteries and micro fuel cells in the shapes dictated by computer programmes, he said.

Researchers adapted the DLW method to synthesise and pattern hybrid nanocatalysts, or fuel sources, into complex geometric shapes. Using computer-controlled laser writing that uses higher heat and pressure, the scientists were able to produce a surface that became electrically conducive and also has catalytic functionalities. This is the first step in manufacturing micro fuel cells that convert chemical energy into electrical energy and batteries that can integrate into microcircuits, said Lin. Also this technique has been proven to produce microsupercapacitors, he said.

By honing the process, handheld device and smartphone manufacturers will be able to produce components in whatever shape or size they choose, greatly impacting the size of these devices, Lin said. Also, manufacturers will be able to choose more environmentally friendly catalysts for generating energy such as hydrogen or oxygen, which are considered cleaner fuels, he said.