When it comes to the environment, batteries are a big problem. Even rechargeable batterieseventually reach the end of their lifespan, and all too often wind up in landfills rather than designated recycling facilities. In an effort to turn wasted batteries into a thing of the past, one team of researchers has developed a new type of energy storage device that self-destructs when it’s no longer needed.
Researchers at Iowa State University have created a battery that dissolves in water. Ideal for electronic devices with special uses (think: military communications), the battery is designed to self-destruct when triggered by light, heat, or liquid. The class of device where such a battery would be particularly useful is known as “transient” devices, and they range from military secret-keepers to medical life-savers to environmental condition-sensors. In all cases, a dissolving battery could potentially be used so the device would simply wash away after it had served its purpose.
The latest development was created in the Iowa State lab run by Reza Montazami, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. He has been working on transient device technology for years. Now, his team has developed a working lithium-based battery capable of delivering 2.5 volts, which can run a desktop calculator for 15 minutes or so. The battery can self-destruct in water, taking just 30 minutes to dissolve upon submersion. This achievement is the next logical stage of evolution for transient devices, according to Montazami. “Any device without a transient power source isn’t really transient,” he said. “This is a battery with all the working components. It’s much more complex than our previous work with transient electronics.”