The flexibility of this battery makes it a good fit for smart watches. Arizona State University uses Kirigami technique for a more flexible battery. (via ASU)

When it comes to lithium-ion batteries, they're pretty limited when it comes to their shape, unless they're on the verge of exploding. But one research team at Arizona State University is in the process of creating a more flexible, stretchable battery. Using a form of Japanese origami called Kirigami, which includes a combination of cutting out shapes and folding, this new battery can be stretched to more than 150 percent of its original size, yet still be fully functional. The team used this combination of cuts and folds to create the patterns that allow the material to be flexible. This ensures the battery will not have uneven surfaces, which is often the problem traditional origami has.


The batteries were created using slurries of graphite and lithium cobalt dioxide, which can store and release electricity when placed together. The slurries were placed on sheets of foil and Kirigami techniques were used to fold and cut the sheets into different flexible shapes.


For testing, the prototype was sewn into an elastic wristband attached to a smart watch. As the band was being stretched, the battery fully powered the watch and its functions, including playing video. Hanqing Jiang, associate professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, and Energy, came up with the idea to incorporate the Kirigami technique for new batteries after he spoke with a famous origami artist whose work he'd seen.


Speaking about the future of the battery, Jiang said “This type of battery could potentially be used to replace the bulky and rigid batteries that are limiting the development of compact wearable electronic devices.”


The university has licensed this new technology to some unnamed companies, but further testing on the device has to be done before it's ready for the market. But ASU isn't the only university using this folding technique.

Recently, researchers at the University of Michigan incorporated Kirigami inspired designs to create stretchable and flexible conductors. The team made small incisions in conductive material to spread stress over a larger, more predictable area. This process makes the material extremely stretchable, flexible, and self-expanding. Composite sheets using the conductors can stand up to 370 percent strain. With so many scientists incorporating this folding style in their technology, only time will tell what else it will be adapted to.



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