Nuclear engineer creates paperlike battery suitable for UAS

By Luke Geiver | April 14, 2016

Built from the byproducts of the silicone industry, a new paperlike battery developed by a Kansas State University mechanical and nuclear engineering professor could improve unmanned aircraft system operations.

Gurpreet Singh, associate professor at KSU, and his team have found a new material combination for a batteries electrode design. The electrode portion of a battery is responsible for conducting electrical current through contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit. The new electrode design utilizes a glassy ceramic called silicon oxycarbide that is sandwiched between large platelets of chemically modified graphene. The design is lighter and just as productive as other battery materials. The material can be used in lithium ion batteries as well. It is also suitable for applications in below zero temperatures, a feature that the researchers say make it suitable for aerial applications.

"The paperlike design is markedly different from the electrodes used in present day batteries because it eliminates the metal foil support and polymeric glue—both of which do not contribute toward capacity of the battery," Singh said.

In addition to the temperature threshold, the battery material is rechargeable. “This suggests that rechargeable batteries from silicon-glass and graphene electrodes may also be suitable for unmanned aerial vehicles flying at high altitudes,” Singh said, “or maybe even space applications.”

Singh said his team wants to explore the production of lithium-ion battery fuel-cells and how the paperlike batteries will hold up when shaped or manufactured through 3D printing applications.