Increased use of renewable energy from solar and wind power will be necessary to achieve climate objectives. However, the possibility to store energy in an eco-friendly and efficient manner is a challenge that is slowing the conversion to sustainable solutions.
Researchers at Linköping University, together with colleagues from Rise and the Royal Institute of Technology, have developed an electronic paper that can be manufactured on an industrial scale. In the pilot project, rolls of length 10 metres and width 20 centimetres have been successfully manufactured, which means that full-scale production is fully possible. The paper has high conductivity, and long-term uses include energy storage and the construction of electronic components.
“We have been trying to take printed electronics, in which paper is used to support electronic components, to the next development stage, which is to incorporate the components into the paper. Electronic paper with high conductivity. Photo credit Thor BalkhedThis pilot project shows that it is possible, on a scale that transcends the slow and small-scale experiments in the research lab”, says Isak Engquist, associate professor and head of research in the Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE) at Linköping University.
The paper is made from a mixture of cellulose, conducting polymers and charcoal from coconut, which makes the material flexible, durable and electrically conductive. In addition, the production is cheap and environmentally sustainable, which is a great advantage over traditional electronic components. These often contain scarce metals and toxic substances.
Magnus Berggren, professor at LOE, sees many possible applications for the new electronic paper.
“The first commercial products will probably be various forms of small energy-storage systems for future electronic applications. The intention then is to scale the technology up to give large-scale energy storage and fuel cells”, says Magnus Berggren.
From lab to industry
A prototype of electronic paper was developed at LOE in 2015 and consisted of a sheet with diameter 15 centimetres. The prototype of electronic paper was developed at LOE in 2015. Photo credit Thor BalkhedThe lab then faced the challenge of being able to produce the electronic paper on an industrial scale, and it has now been successful in this.
“It’s important that industry has participated in our research projects from an early stage, ensuring that we do not develop technology that turns out to be impossible to produce”, says Magnus Berggren.
Two projects are behind the discovery: 0D+1D+2D=3D, led by Linköping University, and the Digital Cellulose Center, DCC, led by Rise. Isak Engquist believes that the new paper offers exciting possibilities for continued development, to achieve even better electronic properties.
“It will be interesting to see the new applications that our creative researchers can come up with when they get their hands on this material. The paper is functional through its complete thickness, which means that it can conduct much more current and store much more energy than thin layers printed onto conventional paper”, says Isak Engquist.
Translated by George Farrants.