ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: August 19, 2010

A new generation of power Hi tech rechargeable batteries developed for military

Embargoed for release: Monday, August 23, 8 p.m., Eastern Time

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Scientists reported progress today in using a common virus to develop improved materials for high-performance, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that could be woven into clothing to power portable electronic devices. They discussed development of the new materials for the battery’s cathode, or positive electrode, at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held here this week.

These new power sources could in the future be woven into fabrics such as uniforms or ballistic vests, and poured or sprayed into containers of any size and shape, said Mark Allen, Ph.D., who presented the report. These conformable batteries could power smart phones, GPS units, and other portable electronic devices. Batteries produce electricity by converting chemical energy into electrical energy using two electrodes — an anode and cathode — separated by an electrolyte. At the ACS meeting, Allen described development of new cathodes made from an iron-fluoride material that could soon produce lightweight and flexible batteries with minimal loss of power, performance, or chargeability compared to today’s rechargeable power sources

“We’re talking about fabrics that also are batteries,” Allen said. “The batteries, once woven into clothing, could provide power for a range of high-tech devices, including handheld radios, GPS devices and personal digital assistants. They could also be used in everyday cell phones and smart phones.” Making light-weight and long-lasting batteries that could result in rechargeable clothing would have several advantages for both military personnel and civilians, Allen added. "Typical soldiers have to carry several pounds of batteries. But if you could turn their clothing into a battery pack, they could drop a lot of weight. The same could be true for frequent business travellers — the road warriors — who lug around batteries and separate rechargers for laptop computers, cell phones, and other devices. They could shed some weight.”

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