A flexible and organic alternative to the rigid batteries used for powering medical implants has been designed by experts at Queen's University Belfast.
Devices such as defibrillators and pacemakers are currently fitted with rigid and metal based batteries, which can lead to patient discomfort.
A flexible supercapacitor with an extended cycle life, which could power body sensors, has been recently developed by Dr Geetha Srinivasan and a team of young Researchers from Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre.
The flexible device is developed from non-flammable electrolytes and organic composites, which are considered to be safe for the human body. It can also be effortlessly decomposed without incurring the most important costs associated with recycling or disposing off metal based batteries.
The results have been published in Energy Technology and Green Chemistry, and they demonstrate the possibility of manufacturing the device by using readily available natural feedstock, instead of expensive and sophisticated semiconductors or metals.
In modern society, we all increasingly depend on portable electronics such as smartphones and laptops in our everyday lives and this trend has spread to other important areas such as healthcare devices. In medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators there are two implants, one which is fitted in the heart and another which holds the metal based, rigid batteries - this is implanted under the skin.
Dr Geetha Srinivasan, Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre
Dr Srinivasan further explained, "The implant under the skin is wired to the device and can cause patients discomfort as it is rubs against the skin. For this reason batteries need to be compatible to the human body and ideally we would like them to be flexible so that they can adapt to body shapes."
Dr Srinivasan added, "At Queen's University Belfast we have designed a flexible energy storage device, which consists of conducting polymer - biopolymer composites as durable electrodes and ionic liquids as safer electrolytes... The device we have created has a longer life-cycle, is non-flammable, has no leakage issues and above all, it is more flexible for placing within the body."
While the findings demonstrate that there are a number of advantages in the medical world, the organic storage device is also capable of providing solutions in portable electronic devices and wearable electronics, making these more flexible.
Although this research could be a potential solution to a global problem, the actual supercapacitor assembly is a straightforward process.
Ms Marta Lorenzo, PhD Researcher on the project, Queen's University Belfast
Dr Srinivasan further stated, "There is also opportunity to fabricate task-specific supercapacitors. This means that their properties can be tuned and also manufactured using environmentally friendly methods, which is important if they are to be produced on a large scale, for example in powering portable personal electronic devices."