Scientists Have Made A Self-Destructing, Dissolvable Battery

Brilliance | Dec. 19, 2017

The value of a battery is often considered in terms of its battery life. A battery that never dies? Sounds great. But what about a battery made to die? Old batteries have a big impact on the environment, so one made to dissolve at the end of its life could be a real benefit to the planet. In 2016, researchers achieved just that.

Now You See It, Now You Don't

The 2016 invention of a short-term, self-destructing battery definitely made waves. Iowa State University mechanical engineering professor Reza Montazami lead a team of researchers in creating what they called the first practical transient battery.

The battery is tiny—just 5x6 mm, and 1 mm thick. It contains an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte separator, like most batteries, and is sandwiched between two layers of polyvinyl alcohol-based polymer. When you drop the battery in water, that polymer casing swells, causing the electrodes to break apart and dissolve completely except for a certain quantity of nanoparticles, which don't degrade. This also happens when the battery is exposed to heat or light. The entire process takes about a half-hour.

A Boon For The Planet

Perhaps the biggest impact this technology may have is on the environment. Self-destructing batteries that almost completely dissolve leave much less waste for landfills. This new push in transient electronics could result in batteries and devices that operate within a small time frame before self-destructing. This could be useful in secretive military conditions, and in medical devices that would otherwise require an operation to remove a battery.

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