There was a time when "jelly shoes" were the fashion craze for the pre-teen set. It looks as though "jelly batteries" may be the next must-have accessory for the mobile IT professional.
The standard for mobile batteries these days uses lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology. This design uses two electrodes -- cathode and anode -- separated by a porous plastic barrier. The space between them is filled with a liquid electrolyte. The result is an efficient battery, but the various components have to be sealed carefully to prevent leaks.
Researchers at the University of Leeds have announced the discovery of a new Li-ion battery design. Instead of relying on a barrier layer, the battery traps the electrolyte in a gel that prevents the two electrodes from shorting out. The result is a thin battery that can conform to different shapes, which will give mobile device designers more freedom.
One happy byproduct of this new design is that it can be made less expensively than the sealed cells of traditional Li-ion designs. The Leeds researchers have developed an extrusion/lamination process that can fabricate batteries at speeds of 10 meters per minute. The product of this process can be cut to size as desired, and the gel prevents the electrolyte from leaking.
The technology has been licensed to an American company, Polystor Energy Corporation; no announcements have been made yet about when commercial production might begin. Once they become available, they could have a major impact on the design of future generations of portable electronic devices, from mobile phones to tablets and laptop computers.