Research into 3D Printed Batteries through Electrodeposition

Finished: 2019-11-13

BSc assignment

3D printing offers an innovative alternative to the decades old process of injection molding by enabling the rapid prototyping of complex 3D structures. Apart from the commonplace materials such as PLA and ABS, composite filaments have been developed that incorporate qualities beyond the normal properties of plastics, i.e. electrical conductivity, magnetism, and water solubility. In addition, multi-material 3D printers allow for the composition of the finished 3D print to consist of more than one material.

Electrodeposition, already used in the industry to make objects more wear and corrosion resistant, is a process that uses an electric current to accumulate a layer of metal ions onto an electrically conductive material. Commonplace metals that are electroplated include copper, nickel, zinc, gold, silver, etc. More recently, electrodeposition has been used to decrease the electrical resistance of 3D printed parts for use as passive components such as inductors and energy storage components, i.e. supercapacitors.

Thus, these two technologies have the potential to further advance the area of electrical energy storage by combining the chemical potential of metals and the versatility of 3D printing in a finished product that would require no assembly. Different from the already researched method of dissolving PLA with active materials such as lithium titanate and lithium manganese oxide to create two dissimilar electrodes, the method with electrodeposition would require no preparation prior to 3D printing, thereby reducing the time to fabricate each unit. Furthermore, with the technique of selective electroplating, the electrodes can be printed together at the same time with no need for assembly of the electrodes afterwards. However, to ensure that the electrodeposition occurs uniformly throughout each 3D printed electrode, complex geometries for the electrodes will have to utilized with the help of 3D printing. Lastly, these complex geometries will have to interact with an electrolyte and therefore, will need the largest possible surface area while considering the resistance of the material.

The finished product will be a copper-zinc battery with either a salt or acidic electrolyte. Therefore, the thesis will focus on the fabrication of such a battery as well as its viability and characterization, particularly its capacity and discharge performance in comparison to today’s industry standard copper-zinc batteries