Jennifer Lewis, a materials scientist at Harvard University, and her team have created a lithium-ion battery that fits comfortably on the head of a pin. This battery is one of the smallest batteries ever made, and it was created using a 3D printer. Making a working battery with a 3D printer requires a custom machine that lays down new materials loaded with lithium-metal-oxide particles. The average 3D printer only manipulates plastic. This is useful for many other things, but not so useful when it comes to creating a battery.

3D Printed Microbatteries

3D Printed Microbatteries

Illustration courtesy of Jennifer A. Lewis.

The 3D printer printed a pair of five-fingered electrodes that interlock together. The paste then hardened and this process was repeated many times to increase the height of the electrodes. The final product weighs less than 100 micrograms and included 16 strata submerged in an electrolyte solution. Despite being small, gram for gram it stores almost as much energy as a larger lithium-ion battery.

3D printed batteries could be very useful for creating custom batteries for many different applications. This customizability will be appealing for use in cellphones, laptops and even small robots. This process also opens the door to creating other things using 3D printing. A list of patents that are related to to this technology is provided below.

Patent No. Title
1. 8,636,938 Modular fabrication systems and methods
2. 8,634,476 High definition camera
3. 8,617,090 Oral care device
4. 8,565,909 Fabrication of materials with desired characteristics from base materials having determined characteristics
5. 8,562,324 Networked three-dimensional printing
6. 8,503,539 High definition personal computer (PC) cam
7. 8,425,218 Networked three-dimensional printing
8. 8,414,280 Networked three-dimensional printing
9. 8,289,352 Providing erasable printing with nanoparticles
10. 8,254,608 Hearing aid device and method of producing a hearing aid device
11. 8,224,006 Hearing aid device and a method of manufacturing a hearing aid device
12. 8,185,229 Apparatus and methods for handling materials in a 3-D printer
13. 8,163,003 Active blood vessel sleeve methods and systems
14. 8,032,337 Method for modeling customized earpieces
15. 7,979,152 Apparatus and methods for handling materials in a 3-D printer
16. 7,971,991 Apparatus and methods for handling materials in a 3-D printer
17. 7,939,003 Modular fabrication systems and methods
18. 7,828,022 Apparatus and methods for handling materials in a 3-D printer
19. 7,625,198 Modular fabrication systems and methods
20. 7,615,141 Electrochemical micromanufacturing system and method
21. 7,480,387 In the ear hearing aid utilizing annular acoustic seals
22. 7,263,791 Display device
23. 7,234,257 Means for maintaining spatial relationships in lenticular display units
24. 7,164,775 In the ear hearing aid utilizing annular ring acoustic seals
25. 7,050,293 Foldable mobile station with non-cylindrical hinge
26. 5,319,390 Thermal printer apparatus