A new battery can be applied to skin and worn underwater

17 May 2016

The stretchable battery design. Image via J. Rogers, University of Illinois

Researchers working on new applications for battery technology have developed a wearable battery that can be applied to skin in the same way as a band aid, and can also be worn underwater.

The battery, which uses technology commonly available today, was developed by a team of international researchers that wanted to improve upon existing wearable devices that need to be removed to charge.

In its paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team revealed that its battery, which is capable of powering most portable devices, is comprised of dozens of miniaturised lithium-ion batteries, which are then linked together to form a single battery of larger capacity.

Previous attempts at creating wearable battery packs have proven difficult and unfeasible, which encouraged the team to make these new miniaturised batteries incredibly thin to allow greater comfort and movement.

Battery underwater

The battery working under water. Clip via Jung Woo Lee et al

Could be built into clothing

The wires and tiles that make up the battery were then embedded in a soft, rubbery, material and then coated with another stiffer type of rubber to ensure it remained stretchable up to 30pc without losing functionality.

Additionally, the strength of the rubber meant the battery is completely waterproof when it is applied to the skin.

During testing of this new wearable battery, the team built a sensory device by applying tiny solar cells on top of the battery, which will recharge it, as well as minaturised biosensors and chips, to allow it to endlessly generate data from the body of the person wearing it.

In terms of applications, the team suggests in its paper that it could have a number of applications in the manufacturing of clothing such as socks, which would include sensors to capture bodily information without ever having to be removed for recharging.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic