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This Stretchy, Bendy Battery Could Power A New Generation Of Flexible Phones

Swiss scientists have developed a stretchy, flexible battery that can be folded, bent and even rolled.

Swiss scientists have developed a stretchy, flexible battery that could power a new breed of phones that can be folded, bent and even rolled.

The prototype flexible thin film battery was created by Professor Markus Niederberger and his team at Switzerland’s ETH Zürich technical university. It uses a new type of electrolyte (the material through which lithium ions move when the battery is charged and discharged), discovered by doctoral student Xi Chen.

The electrolyte takes the form of a gel containing water with a high concentration of lithium salt, which is far less flammable and toxic than liquid electrolytes in today’s commercial batteries.

This gel is sandwiched between two stretchable current collectors, lined with a thin layer of silver flakes that lie over one another like roof tiles, enabling them to maintain conductivity even when the battery is bent.

Into the fold

Foldable phones are an exciting concept, and earlier this year manufacturers seemed to be falling over themselves to release the first bendable production handsets, but the two major models (the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X) have been beset with problems and delays.

Phones aren’t the only possible application for the bendy battery, though; Niederberger also sees potential uses in flexible tablets, watches, and even fashion. “For instance, you could sew our battery right into the clothing,” he said.

Smart garments are certainly interesting (Google recently rebooted its Project Jacquard concept with a smart Yves Saint Laurent backpack), but Niederberger is keen to point out that the bendy battery needs more development before it’ll be ready to stitch into your clothes. For the time being then, fully foldable devices are still on standby.

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