First printed solar, now printed batteries on the way

Ultra-thin, flexible, printable batteries could be on the market in less than three years, thanks to a new $12 million project being led by the University of NSW and University of Queensland.

The news comes just a month after printed solar technology was revealed by the University of Newcastle.

The research project will further develop technology created by Printed Energy, a Brisbane-based company backed by coal magnate Trevor St Baker, founder of ERM Power and the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund.

Printed Energy’s solid state batteries can be screen printed in a roll-to-roll process similar to a newspaper, with expected applications including powering disposable medical devices, Internet of Things sensors and wearable electronics, as well as storing solar energy.

“The highly innovative and unique nature of this technology makes it ideal for powering sensors, devices for the Internet or Things, disposable healthcare devices and, eventually, even for large-scale application to help manage the intermittent nature of electricity generated by solar panels,” Printed Energy chief executive Rodger Whitby said.

Uses limited only by imagination

Chris Greig, director of the University of Queensland Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and the UQ Energy Initiative, said the technology provided an opportunity for advanced manufacturing in Australia.

“Australia has seen a decline in manufacturing industries in recent decades. This technology represents not just an opportunity for us to be involved in cutting-edge science and innovation, but presents a real opportunity for the next generation of Australian manufacturing,” he said.

“Our mission is to foster and facilitate advances in science and engineering which are technologically, economically and socially sustainable. This project fits the bill perfectly and the range of applications is probably only limited by our imaginations.”

There are “immediate applications” in wearables and small-scale devices, according to UNSW dean of engineering Mark Hoffman, with large-scale uses to be researched over the next three years.

The research project has been provided with $2 million through the Cooperative Research Centres Projects initiative, part of $28.8 million in grants announced by industry, innovation and science minister Arthur Sinodinos on Monday.

Other partners include Sunset Power International and Sonovia Holdings.

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