The electrode inks, one serving as a cathode, the other as an anode, hardened immediately into narrow layers, one atop the other. Once the electrodes were stacked, researchers packaged them inside tiny containers and added an electrolyte solution to complete the battery pack.
This novel process created a battery that could one day help power tiny medical implants as well as more novel electronics, like flying, insect-like robots. Such devices have been in development for some time, patiently awaiting an appropriately sized power source.
"[The researchers'] innovative microbattery ink designs dramatically expand the practical uses of 3-D printing, and simultaneously open up entirely new possibilities for miniaturization of all types of devices, both medical and non-medical," said Donald Ingber, the founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
Jennifer Lewis, a professor of engineering at Harvard University and lead author of the microbattery research study, said her team is looking at using their novel 3-D printing process to create other precise structures with diverse electronic, optical, mechanical or biologically relevant properties. [See also: 3-D Printing: From Trivial to Revolutionary Objects]