First 3D-Printed Battery Just 1mm Wide

Speaking of 3D printing, researchers at Harvard University have developed a 3D-printable battery that’s just 1mm wide; the tiny component will ostensibly be used to power computers and even robotic drones of commensurate size, from hearing aids to the (frankly, quite terrifying-sounding) Robobees that have also been developed at the university.

The team built the tiny battery with a custom 3D printer and ink, according to Gigaom, with a nozzle that’s just 30 microns wide. As you can see in the brief video, the machine prints comb-like parts, using multiple layers of “nanoparticle-packed paste”; when two “combs” are interlocked, they form an electrode and can conduct electricity.

“The electrochemical performance is comparable to commercial batteries in terms of charge and discharge rate, cycle life and energy densities,” said co-author Shen Dillon in a Harvard press release. “We’re just able to achieve this on a much smaller scale.”

The report says that this design is superior to current methods of making miniscule batteries, which use layers of film that can’t provide much power. Further, this battery is actually a lithium-ion battery, which is the same type found in mobile devices such as cell phones. (Resisting the urge to make a smartphone battery life joke here.)