Pooled development fund Strategic Elements is trying to create an alternative to the mainstream lithium-ion battery, by creating a technology that could be screen printed and draw power from air moisture.

Tech venture firm Strategic Elements (ASX:SOR) continues to go from strength to strength in the development of game-changing alternative battery technology for the global electronics market.

Last year, the company’s lead research team at the University of NSW flagged two major breakthroughs – the reduction of cell size for increased power output, and the confirmation of robust product flexibility in the textile fabrication process.

This morning, SOR reported another significant development, confirming that the prototype Battery Ink cells were able to be successfully screen-printed onto flexible plastic, generating over 250mAh (milliamp hours) of electrical charge solely from the moisture.

In addition, over 5mA (milliamps) of electrical current was achieved under load over a three-day testing period.

These results mean that the battery is able to produce a 150% increase in electrical charge compared to previous reporting in September last year.

“Traditionally the electrical charge produced by emerging battery technologies only increases by small, incremental amounts each year,” says Strategic Elements CEO, Charles Murphy.

“To achieve a 150% increase and generate 250mAh of electrical charge solely from moisture so early in development is an exceptional outcome for both the team and the company, “ he added.

The latest breakthrough means that SOR could apply the technology into new use cases, potentially opening the door to commercialisation opportunities.

According to the company, one of the first electronic devices to be powered by the Battery Ink cells will be electronic skin patches that monitor health, well-being, and sports performance


Printed moisture power

In traditional solar cells or batteries,  two electrodes (top and bottom) are needed to collect current (mobile ions).

These ions move from an area of high concentration to low concentration, creating an electron current flow. You might know it as “electricity”.

Electricity generated is connected to electrodes, which in turn are connected to devices such as sensors or other electronic components that need power.

SOR’s Battery Ink Cell structure works differently in that the electrodes were also screen printed.

Equipment used to produce the battery at UNSW has the capacity to screen print features as small as 100 micrometres, and as large as a 1m x 3m.

Previous studies have shown that screen printing is the optimum method to produce printable electronics, due to greater precision and ability to create more sophisticated devices.

Unlike traditional batteries, screen printing allows the electrodes to be sandwiched easily to fit into new electronic devices with different flexibility, size and shape requirements – increasing the freedom of design.

SOR’s screen printed graphene-oxide based cells also harvest energy from airborne water molecules, which could result in the battery extending device life or providing energy for battery storage.

The company says that use cases for the technology provide compelling potential benefits for commercialisation, including the batteries’ ability to self-charge through ambient moisture,  non-flammability, environmental friendliness, and their low production cost.

“The Battery Ink technology is at an exciting stage of development where fundamental limits of aspects such as battery cell size, power output, duration, energy density, etc… are still unknown,” Murphy said.

“One of the challenges with printed electronics is that the processes are so new that trial-and-error and testing is critical to success.”

“Fortunately, this does also provide significant opportunities for unforeseen breakthroughs,” he added.


Next steps

Development conducted in Q4 2021 has resulted in significant technical breakthroughs that have been covered by patents.

For the remainder of Q1 of 2022, the company says it will provide its technical team with the freedom to pursue deep research and development (R&D).

This includes using trial-and-error materials in order to potentially achieve an output improvement in the moisture-induced electrical energy generated from the Battery Ink.

Meanwhile, SOR’s R&D partner, the UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering,  is ranked number one in Australia for material science.

The faculty also has a number of partnerships with leading companies such as Boral, Hitachi Chemical, One Steel and many more.

Although electronic skin patches remain the immediate focus this quarter, SOR says investigation into other uses of the Battery Ink technology have commenced.

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.