Pooled development fund Strategic Elements (ASX: SOR) has unveiled what it described as a “critical milestone” in the form of self-charging battery technology capable of producing printable memory ink with a wide variety of modern applications.
Following last month’s announcement that the company was on track to unveil its 1-litre battery ink batches in December, Strategic Elements told the market today it has successfully scaled up its production capacity to 2,000 cells.
In a statement to the market, the tech development company said its next key milestone is to fabricate a prototype battery pack of multiple connected battery ink cells producing 3.7 volts in January 2021.
Meanwhile, in regards to its printable neuromorphic memory tech development, the company announced it has commenced testing its nanocube memory technology for its potential in printable “brain-inspired”, or neuromorphic, computing.
“The nanocube memory structure and operation allows it to combine computing and memory in one place similarly to how biological neurons operate in human brains. A series of significant synaptic functions are being emulated with lab results expected to be available in December 2020,” the company said.
According to Strategic Elements, its battery ink cells have strong potential competitive advantages over existing lithium-based batteries that suffer from size, rigidness, weight, safety and environmental issues.
Moreover, they require persistent re-charging and eventual replacement. At all stages, they are highly flammable and potentially toxic to their environment, while failing to dispose of them correctly at the end of their lifecycle always leads to severely harmful consequences.
The new battery ink cells attempt to evolve the newly emergent rush into batteries by creating cells that are self-charging via the air’s humidity gradient.
The charging time is therefore reduced from hours to minutes while creating breath-taking innovations such as wearable batteries that are self-charging, foldable, flexible and paintable.
Most importantly, they are environmentally friendly which allows for larger upscaling opportunities.
A major hurdle to date has been prohibitive pricing and government regulations surrounding graphene electronics and controlling its electrical properties. Due to the high cost of large volume production and difficulties faced by developers, graphene electronics supplies are currently limited to relatively small volumes and restricted to research and development and academic uses.
Strategic Elements hopes to circumvent these early graphene industry teething issues by turning to a graphene derivative called graphene oxide – a substance that’s far more widely available and is considerably more cost-effective to manufacture than graphene due to superior “dispersity” – the measure of the diversity of sizes of molecules or particles in a mixture.
According to Strategic Elements, testing of its battery ink products shows that an individual ink cell contains tens of thousands of layered nanosheets of graphene oxide, which is therefore leading the company to speculate that graphene oxide could be the catalyst that enables graphene-powered battery ink technology to enter production far sooner than expected.
The battery ink cell personal touch
One sector already being targeted by the pooled development fund is electronic skin patches.
Skin patches are wearable products with integrated sensors, monitoring the skin for information which can then be relayed.
Indications are that graphene oxide patches could be designed to use the skin’s humidity to power themselves and thereby allow Strategic Elements’ technology to provide a flexible, light, self-recharging power source for the electronic skin patch sector – a sector forecast to grow to around US$40 billion (A$57 billion) by 2030.
More broadly, the global battery market for the incumbent Internet of Things (IoT) generation is on track to grow from around US$8.7 billion (A$11.8 billion) in 2009 to almost US$16 billion (A$22 billion) by 2025.