We can already turn fish oil into biofuel, so is it any surprise that scientists have managed to turn simple office paper into batteries? Stanford researchers recently discovered that dipping ordinary office paper into carbon nanotube-infused ink creates an efficient, durable battery.
Materials scientist Yi Cui and his Stanford colleagues coated copy paper with black ink made out of electrically conductive carbon nanotubes. Cui then dipped the batteries into an electrolyte solution, sealed them in a pouch, and voila, ready-for-use batteries or supercapacitors. Cui's batteries aren't wimpy, either--they have comparable storage capacity to lithium-ion batteries and could potentially last for 40,000 charge-discharge cycles. That's more than the li-ion batteries used in hybrid electric vehicles. And since ink adheres strongly to paper, the batteries are ultra-durable. According to Cui, the paper batteries can be crumpled or even soaked in acid without affecting performance.
Perhaps best of all, the paper batteries can be commercialized quickly. There's clearly room for innovation in the hybrid electric battery business--li-ion battery startup Imara closed shop just today--and paper batteries could potentially be both cheaper and more lightweight than existing models. And ultimately, that might mean cheaper EVs for everyone.