We’re one step closer to seeing bendable phones hit the market. A group of scientists led by Professor Lee Sang-young of South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Technology announced that they’ve successfully developed the world’s first bendable lithium ion batteries. Note that this is right on the heels of Samsung’s “Youm” flexible OLED display announcement at CES 2013.
The team documented its findings in a paper entitled “Imprintable, bendable and shape-conformable polymer electrolytes for versatile-shaped lithium ion batteries,” which was published in the German weekly scientific journal Advanced Materials.
So what makes these new batteries flexible? While standard lithium ion batteries use liquified electrolytes, these new juice pads are made of nanomaterials that can be applied to any surface, which then behave similarly to fluid-like polymer electrolytes. The latter material is what makes the batteries bendable.
According to South Korea’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, this breakthrough also addresses a safety issue concerning heat. According to the bureau, standard lithium ion batteries “that use liquefied electrolytes had problems with safety as the film that separates electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative may come in contact, causing an explosion.” This may explain the occasional stories we hear about spontaneously combusting handsets.
With the advent of flexible OLED displays, a fully functional smartphone that bends is no longer the stuff of science fiction.