by Jennifer O'Brien

‘Screen-printed’ batteries to revolutionise Australian renewables

Jun 29, 2017
Manufacturing Industry

UNSW and the University of Queensland have teamed up to create what one scientist said is the “missing piece of the puzzle” for renewable energy: ultra-thin, flexible screen-printed batteries for cheap portable devices.

The technology, which should be a reality in three years, could offer new opportunities for manufacturing, experts say.

“Storage has been the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to renewable energy. The world is crying out for storage solutions, and this partnership has the potential to deliver on that urgent need. What’s exciting is that this technology also has immediate applications in wearables and small-scale devices,” according to Mark Hoffman, UNSW’s dean of engineering.

The technology has the potential to power everything from disposable medical devices, smart cards and wearable electronics to large-scale solar panels and energy storage. The $12 million project aims to further develop technology by battery energy storage firm Printed Energy, and bring it to market. Printed Energy is a Brisbane company with patented technologies in printing batteries and photovoltaics and a laboratory in Arizona focused on energy storage and materials science.

Additionally, the project was given a $2 million boost by the Cooperative Research Centres Projects scheme, announced by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Arthur Sinodinos. It is also backed by energy innovator and philanthropist Trevor St Baker, founder of ERM Power and creator of the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund.

“The highly innovative and unique nature of this technology makes it ideal for powering sensors, devices for the Internet or Things, disposable healthcare devices and eventually, even for large-scale application to help manage the intermittent nature of electricity generated by solar panels,” according to Rodger Whitby, CEO of Printed Energy and of the St Baker Energy Innovation Fund.

Chris Greig, director of University of Queensland’s Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and the UQ Energy Initiative, said he’s excited about the potential.

“Australia has seen a decline in manufacturing industries in recent decades. This technology represents not just an opportunity for us to be involved in cutting-edge science and innovation but presents a real opportunity for the next generation of Australian manufacturing. “Our mission is to foster and facilitate advances in science and engineering which are technologically, economically and socially sustainable. This project fits the bill perfectly and the range of applications is probably only limited by our imaginations.”

According to project officials, the first applications of the technology will be in small-scale devices, with development work in large-scale uses to be explored by the partners over the next three years, relying on Printed Energy’s proprietary designs.

UQ’s the Dow Centre will coordinate the research effort, with UQ’s Lianzhou Wang and UNSW’s Da-Wei Wang driving the development.