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First-Ever 3D-Printed Battery

A research team based at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has demonstrated, for the first time, the ability to 3D print a battery. Their 3D-printed lithium-ion microbatteries are the size of a grain of sand, and could supply electricity to miniaturized medical implants, compact electronics, tiny robots, and more. To create the microbattery, a custom-built 3D printer extrudes special inks through a nozzle thinner than a human hair. Upon exiting the nozzle, the inks immediately harden into layers as narrow as those produced by thin-film manufacturing methods. Layer by layer, these inks create the battery's anode and cathode. The inks contain nanoparticles of a lithium metal oxide compound, which give the anode the proper electrical properties. A case then encloses the electrodes and an electrolyte solution is added to create a working microbattery. This tiny battery even has an electrochemical performance comparable to commercial batteries in terms of charge and discharge rate, cycle life, and energy densities.