A team of researchers from the Nanomechanics Department of the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) has developed a stretchable battery that is modeled on snake scales and can be bent and stretched like a snake. The research results were open access online in Soft Robotics released. The researchers now hope that this new battery will have a wide range of uses, such as energy storage technology and disaster situations, by applying it to different types of devices, from soft robots to portable devices.
‘Snakeskin Battery’ Graphics – © open access, Soft Robotics, KIMM
The team, led by Bongkyun Jang and Seungmin Hyun in the Department of Nanomechanics, developed a stretchable battery structure, the security and stretchability of which is based on the structure of snake scales. As with the boa constrictor, which swallowed the elephant in the novella “The Little Prince”, the individual scales of a snake, although rigid, can fold up to protect themselves from external influences. They also have structural properties that allow them to stretch greatly and move flexibly.
Solarify isn’t sure how serious the “snakeskin battery” is, but finds the idea amusing and so publishes it.
In contrast to traditional portable devices, in which the frame of the device and the battery are combined in a tight formation, the new technology enables flexible movement by connecting several small, hard batteries in a scale-like structure. To ensure the safety of the battery, the research team also minimizes the deformation of the materials that make up the battery by optimally designing the scale-like structure. The shape of the individual battery cells has also been optimized in order to achieve a high capacity per size unit.
The design of the shape of the battery cell and the connecting components were the key aspects of this technological achievement. Small, hexagonal battery cells that resemble snake scales are bonded with polymer and copper material that can be folded in and out via a hinge mechanism. This design also facilitates economical mass production because the battery can be made by cutting and folding flexible electrodes using a manufacturing process inspired by the art of origami.
The new technology can be used in energy storage devices found in soft portable robots for people who need soft and flexible energy storage devices, or in medical rehabilitation devices for the elderly and sick who need physical support. In addition, these batteries should be useful as power supplies for soft robots that are used for rescue operations in the event of disasters. Thanks to their ability to move flexibly and change their shape freely, the robots equipped with these batteries can reach narrow spaces blocked by obstacles in such disaster situations.
For the future, the KIMM research team hopes to develop a technology with which the storage capacity of soft energy storage devices can be increased. The team also hopes to develop multifunctional soft robots that combine artificial muscles with soft robot actuation technology.