Strategic Elements and UNSW achieve a game-changing breakthrough in battery tech as it eyes lucrative electronic skin patches market.

Innovation venture firm Strategic Elements (ASX:SOR) has announced a breakthrough in how electricity is generated for its battery technology by 100% owned AAM and research partner The University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Strategic Elements said nanoionic materials engineering has created a step-change in the ability to convert moisture in the air to electrical energy.

Successful  breakthroughs in its battery technology have demonstrated the potential to increase the electrical charge capacity from milliamp-hours (mAh) to ampere-hours (Ah).

Strategic Elements said the achievement firmly establishes the technology as a world leader and significantly broadens its potential use in electronics with enhanced power requirements.

Amp range development

The research team has started development to implement and validate multiple technology breakthroughs into a world-first battery pack that aims to harvest ampere-hour range of electrical charge solely from moisture in the air.

The 36cm2 cells will be printed onto flexible plastic using green, sustainable, safe materials. Results are intended to be available in Q3 FY22.

Green sustainable materials

Unlike lithium-based batteries, Energy Ink uses green, sustainable materials that are safe and non-flammable.

When printed onto flexible plastic, Energy Ink can be bent around structures or even the human body in the form of skin patches.

Applications for trademarks of Energy Ink™ and Powered by Moisture™ have been registered, while intellectual property from recent developments has been covered under a patent application.

Large market for electronic skin patches 

Based on early results of the upgraded Energy Ink, Strategic Elements believes the technology profile has exceeded the power output requirements of most existing devices in the electronic skin patch market.

The US$10 billion electronic skin patch market is forecast to grow to US$30 billion by 2031.

The products are used to provide sports and health information from devices attached  to the human body and currently use rigid alkaline batteries or those with lithium materials.

Flexibility characteristics of the technology are being measured and validated for use in skin patches.

A technology demonstrator meeting both power and flexibility requirements is under development and intended to be completed in Q3, 2022.

Large battery cell size

Commercial printing equipment can produce small electrical components to multi-square metres in size, and from single-sheet production to long continuous print runs.

A strong benefit of printed electronics is that components can be manufactured in a roll-to-roll process, meaning a large roll of plastic is fed into the production line instead of individual plastic sheets, like newspaper printing.

As a result, very large areas can be produced more cost-effectively, and an investigation into the ability to roll printed Energy Ink material into a tube form is underway.

To date, 36cm2 battery cells suitable for electronic skin patches have been produced. However, UNSW equipment has the capacity to screen print features as small as 100 micrometres and as large as 3m2.

Strategic Elements is initially increasing the Energy Ink cell size area to 100cm2 to test the impact on power output from larger printed cells. Initial results of the cell size investigation are expected within the next 4-6 weeks.

From impossible to possible

Strategic Elements CEO Charles Murphy said it wasn’t long ago that many said it was impossible to produce any usable energy from moisture.

“Our team experienced a lot of scepticism and for us to now realistically target the ampere-hour range generation of electrical energy solely from humidity in the air is a huge achievement,” Murphy said.

“Our technology doesn’t rely on rare materials and carries no safety risks, and in addition, can provide flexibility to electronics.

Murphy said there is an obvious near-term target market in electronic skin patches, but the company is also excited about clearly being in the early stage of testing the fundamental upper limits of this technology.

“The current success is a testament to the strong relationship developed between the company, Professor Dewei Chu and his team at UNSW developed over years of collaborative electronic ink development.”

Powerful collaboration

The Federal Government has registered Strategic Elements as a pooled development fund with a mandate to back Australian innovation.

The company operates as a venture builder where it generates high risk-high reward ventures by sourcing teams of leading scientists or innovators.

UNSW has deep experience in electronic inks, energy harvesting and storage over the past 10 years and is applying that to the Energy Ink technology.

UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering is ranked number 1 in Australia for materials science and has a number of partnerships with leading companies including Boral (ASX:BLD), Hitachi Chemical and One Steel.

UNSW  has world-class infrastructure and equipment geared towards advanced materials engineering and fabrication.

This article was developed in collaboration with Strategic Elements, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.