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Future wearables could run on these bendy batteries powered by salt water

A new thin, flexible battery has been developed by scientists in China that could be just the thing to power future wearables and implantable medical devices.

By April Slattery

A Chinese science team from Fudan University, and the Collaborate Innovation Centre of Chemistry for Energy Materials, has carried out research and development into an alternative battery form, creating minute batteries to power the devices.

Powered by body-friendly fluids, the battery technology is a huge step forward toward making non-toxic recyclable batteries the norm.

The research team developed two flexible battery designs; a “2D” belt-like shape using thin films of electrode material stuck on a mesh made of steel strands, and the second battery used a woven carbon nanotube fibre backbone with embedded nanoparticle electrode materials.

Salt water powered bendy batteries could run future wearables

Your future wearables could be powered by new bendy water run batteries

Instead of having batteries fuelled with dangerous toxic chemicals, these new bendy batteries replace the old with biologically compatible liquids. Saline solution and cell culture liquids are used to power the bendy batteries.

After testing, results found the current lithium-ion batteries used in wearable electronics were outperformed by both flexible battery types, in terms of battery power and the amount of charge they can hold.

Yonggan Wang, Chemistry Professor at Fudan University, said: “Current batteries like the lithium-ion ones used in medical implants generally come in rigid shapes.”

Bendy batteries have swapped corrosive chemicals for sodium-based which are fully bio-compatible. Wang said: “Most of the reported flexible batteries are based on flammable organic or corrosive electronics, which suffer from safety hazards and poor bio-compatibility for wearable devices, let alone implantable ones.”

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Made out of liquids that mimics fluid found around cells in the human body, research suggests the danger to the human body as a result of a battery leaking is hugely minimised because the liquids won’t cause any harm to the inside of a human body.

Unintentionally, during testing the science team found the batteries gave an additional reaction; the carbon nanotube backbone quickened the conversion of dissolved oxygen in hydroxide ions, starving the electrolyte of oxygen.

Read More: Wearables set to boom in spite of current market gloom

Although the effectiveness of the battery was reduced by this reaction scientists noted deoxygenation is ideal for cancer starvation therapy.

Wang said: “We can implant these fibre-shaped electrodes into the human body to consume essential oxygen, especially for areas that are difficult for injectable drugs to reach,

“Deoxygenation might even wipe out cancerous cells or pathogenic bacteria since they are very sensitive to changes in living environment pH. Of course, this is hypothetical right now, but we hope to investigate further with biologists and medical scientists.”

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