We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

How to Make a Battery Out of Office Paper & Nanotubes

By Brett Israel
Dec 10, 2009 5:44 AMNov 19, 2019 8:13 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Stanford University researchers think they've stumbled upon a way to transform ordinary sheets of office paper into batteries and superconductors. By painting a carbon nanotube ink, which can collect electric charge, on plain copier paper, and then dipping the coated paper into a lithium ion solution and an electrolyte, they can create a current and store it within the paper battery. The scientists had previously experimented with making batteries using a similar process of painting nanomaterial ink onto a thin layer of plastic. But in an unexpected twist, they found that pores in paper fibers make it hold the ink better than plastic, for a more durable battery [The New York Times


The research team, led by Yi Cui, found that you can even crumple up the paper batteries or soak them in acid, and they'll still work just fine. They hope their technology, which was reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,can usher in a new era of lightweight, low-cost batteries.

The researchers say the paper batteries could be 20 percent lighter than metal ones and could release their current faster as well. 

The team says that adaptations to the technique in the future could allow for simply painting the nanotube ink and active materials onto surfaces such as walls [BBC News].

Supercapacitors (energy storage devises that hold an electric charge for a short time) made from the same technology worked for over 40,000 charge-discharge cycles.

One application, according to the researchers, could be for massive energy storage on the electric grid, which would help with the storage needs of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar. Some commentators are also suggesting that the paper batteries could be ideal for electric cars; however, the Standford researchers say they have no immediate plans to develop car batteries. Check out a video of the battery in action below:

Related Content: 80beats: A Penny-Sized Nuclear Battery Could Keep Going, and Going… 80beats: The Super-Small, Open-Source, Ultracapacitor-Using Hydrogen Car 80beats: Better Than a Battery? Here’s a Microbe That Could Help Store Clean Energy DISCOVER: 9 Ways Carbon Nanotubes Just Might Rock the WorldImage: L.A. Cicero / Stanford University

Video: YouTube / StanfordUniversity

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.