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New spray-on batteries could revolutionize energy storage

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Renewable energy has been one of the most researched topics ever since gas and oil prices have begun to rise and people have paid attention to their effects on the environment. Making your home run on renewable energy can be quite challenging and in some instances (very) expensive, but a research team at Rice University has just discovered a way to make it a lot easier to create energy and even store it.

Imagine being able to take a bottle of substance and spray it on a wall of your house. Then the sprayed substance converts the sun’s energy into renewable solar energy and even stores it for you. Rice Universities researchers have come up with the designs to this and possibly many other types of spray-on batteries.


The research, published last week in Nature, uses a new approach to the creation of batteries by using materials that can be spray-painted onto different types of surfaces. The idea combines flexible printed circus with spray-on solar cells to offer the possibility of turning any object into a smart device that can run on renewable energy. This idea could potentially be huge with smartphones and computers, instantly getting rid of the wall charger and giving one the ability to lay your phone out in the sun to give it a nice charge.

Conventional lithium-ion batteries feature a “jelly roll” structure which includes the anode, separator, cathode, and metal foils to collect the charge. Unfortunately this limits the shape to a cylinder, rectangle, or a prism. The Rice group’s technique allows them to put it on any shapes and could be used on surfaces such as ceramics, stainless steel, and flexible polymers.

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Although this battery spray in theory could be adapted for personal hand-held spray cans, there is one limitation. Spraying lithium ion directly onto an outdoor wall or object without the necessary equipment or controlled environment could be very dangerous since it is very sensitive to air and moisture. They could at first be only used by industrial spray guns, and then once a safe solution was found it could be adapted to cans. This battery research could very well change renewable energy as we know it. They could give every object from houses to smartphones the ability to recharge from the sun just by spraying the material on it.

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