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Researchers have developed a new way to 3D-print lithium-ion batteries in almost any shape.

Makers of electric vehicles and electronic devices usually design their products around the size and shape – usually cylindrical or rectangular – of commercially available lithium-ion batteries.

This can waste space and limit product design options, the US-based research team said.

The ability to 3D-print lithium ion batteries in an arbitrary shape means batteries could be customised to fit any product design.

The battery could also be used as a structural component of the product itself.

To demonstrate the battery’s potential, the US-based research team 3D printed an LED bangle bracelet with an integrated lithium-ion battery.

This LED bangle, including a lithium-ion battery, was made entirely by 3D printing. Credit: American Chemical Society
This LED bangle, including a lithium-ion battery, was made entirely by 3D printing.
Credit: American Chemical Society

The bangle battery powered a green LED for about 60 seconds – which is impressive, but at this stage the capacity is far too low for practical use.

However, the researchers say that they have several ideas for improving on this first generation design.

Previous work dedicated to makes batteries in unconventional shapes include spray paintable batteries, thin paper batteries, printable solid-state batteries, and stretchable wire-shaped batteries.