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Paper Battery: A Thin Claim of the Storage Technology

Posted on January 30th, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

paper batter 2

The energy storage industry is in the hot seat.  Electric cars and electronic devices are among the drivers of demand for more efficient and smaller size batteries with higher storage capacity.  Whether single use or reusable, batteries have to be disposed at the conclusion of their lives.  Some of the components of battery construction are toxic and hazardous.  Enter the paper battery!

It is basically a device that can operate both as a capacitor and a battery.  As the name suggests the paper battery is thin, flexible and lightweight formed by a combination of cellulose with carbon nanotubes.  It consists of infusions of carbon nanotubes with paper consisting of an ionic liquid as an electrolyte.  An ionic liquid is defined as a salt in which the ions are poorly coordinated thus resulting in those solvents being in liquid phase at <100°C (Source:

The advantages of paper batteries include: they are both ultra thin and flexible; they can operate as a battery and capacitor; they are capable of providing long term steady voltage and energy bursts if required; they can operate in the temperature range of -77 to 100oC.  Cellulose is reusable and biodegradable.

Robert Linhardt from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute invented the original concept of paper batteries about a decade ago.  He layered cellulose (paper) on conductive carbon nanotubes. Even though the combined structure was sturdy enough to build batteries, it fell apart when it was flexed. A Stanford University team led by Professor Yi Cui found a solution to the problem. His group developed an ink by dispersing carbon nanotubes in an aqueous phase of water and a surfactant. The aqueous ink was easily spread on paper after which water was removed by evaporation in a heated oven.  As the water was driven off the nanotubes adhered strongly to to the paper resulting in a highly conductive piece of paper.

A simple paper battery can be constructed according to the following steps (Figure 1):

  • Take a piece of ordinary paper.
  • Coat the surface of one side of this paper with ionic solution.
  • Spread the carbon nanotubes ink over this ionic-coated paper.
  • Laminate the other side of the paper to a thin film of lithium.
  • Attach aluminum rods to the two surfaces to transfer current between two electrodes.

Paper battery

Figure 1 A Simple Design of a Paper Battery

The working principle of paper batteries is similar to the way conventional batteries work.  In traditional batteries positively charged particles (ions) and negatively charged particles (electrons) move between the electrodes: anode (+) and cathode (-).  A chemical reaction between a metal and electrolyte results in production of ions whereas a chemical reaction between carbon and an electrolyte results in production of electrons. These electrons flow from the cathode to the anode through the external circuit.  Current flows as electrons flow from anode to the cathode through the conductor because the electrolyte is an insulator and doesn’t provide a path for electrons to travel.

The Paper Battery Company from Troy New York offers a line of rechargeable batteries (Source: The ultra thin conformable form factor and conformable shape enables integration of power storage between and around a variety of structural and functional materials in products ranging from disposable medical, connected devices, wearable consumer electronics and connected devices, battery-less energy harvesting for long lasting wireless sensors, robots and toys, high end computing electronics and automotive.

As electronic devices and sensors get increasingly embedded in everyday objects, their power storage needs to shrink to match (Source:  The Paper Battery Company’s ultra thin PowerWrapper™ products enable a positive volumetric efficiency to combining batteries and super-capacitors, giving more performance with smaller or same size batteries.  The Paper Battery Company expects the next generation of products would be even thinner and have integrated electronics for system-level integration and power management choices.

As thin as the paper-based batteries are, they are on solid grounds to contribute to the energy storage need of upcoming electronic products.

(General Source:


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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