Better power for mobile devices could exist on paper

POWER ON PAPER. People have been predicting paper’s demise for decades, as functions from basic communications to storage have increasingly gone digital. But just as in the old rock-paper-scissors game, paper seems to find a way to stick around. An e-mail message or PDF beats a mailed letter, but the print button beats on-screen reading, at least in some cases. And so on.

Now, as smart phones and e-book readers take even more functions away from the printed page, scientists might have found a diabolical way for paper to survive yet again — by making those devices dependent on paper for power.

Researchers at Stanford University recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they managed to make lightweight batteries from commercially available paper coated with an ink of single-walled carbon nanotube and silver nanowire films.

Paper’s porous nature makes it easier to apply the films than it is to apply them to plastics, for instance, which also makes the process cheaper, the researchers wrote. And silicon nanowires can provide considerably more power than traditional batteries.

“This work suggests that our conductive paper can be a highly scalable and low-cost solution for high-performance energy storage devices,” they conclude in their abstract.

The research is in a relatively early stage, but before long, paper-based batteries could be used to power not only smart phones and e-readers but also laptop PCs, cameras and — dare we say — portable printers. Paperless office, indeed.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is editor of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCaney.

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