KIMM develops a flexible and expandable battery

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image: The KIMM research team led by Dr Bongkyun Jang and Dr Seungmin Hyun from the Department of Nanomechanics has developed a highly safe and expandable battery by mimicking the design of flexible scales and joints found in the structure of the scales of snake. By zooming in on the battery, we can see that it consists of a hexagonal battery and flexible electrical interconnects. The expandable structure is achieved by the flexible interconnects which can flex and unfold freely.
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Credit: Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM)

The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM), an institute under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science and ICT, has developed a flexible and expandable battery that bends and stretches like a snake. This new battery is expected to have a wide range of uses, such as energy storage technology and disaster situations, applying it to various types of devices, from flexible robots to portable devices.

The KIMM research team, led by principal investigator Dr Bongkyun Jang and principal investigator Dr Seungmin Hyun in the Department of Nanomechanics, developed an expandable battery structure whose safety and extensibility is based on the structure of the scales. snake. On August 16, the team’s findings were published online in Soft robotics, a prestigious journal in the field of soft robotics.

* Title: Bioinspired and Morphing Scale Drums for Unattached Soft Robots

As was described with the boa constrictor that swallowed the elephant in the short story The little Prince, a snake’s individual scales, although rigid, can fold together to protect against external impacts. They also have structural features that allow them to be very stretchy and move smoothly.

The KIMM research team developed the highly expandable battery with excellent stability and performance by fabricating the mechanical metastructure imitating the scale of a snake. Unlike conventional portable devices, in which the device frame and battery are combined into a tight formation, this new technology enables flexible movement by connecting several small, hard batteries in a ladder-like structure.

To ensure the safety of the battery, the research team also minimizes the deformation of the materials composing the battery through an optimal design of the ladder-like structure. In addition, the shape of each battery cell has been optimized to achieve high capacity per unit size.

The design of the shape of the battery cell and the connection components were the key aspects of this technological achievement. Small hexagonal battery cells, resembling a serpent’s scale, were connected with a polymer and copper material that uses a hinge mechanism to bend and unfold. This design also facilitates economical mass production, as the battery can be made by cutting and bending flexible electrodes with a manufacturing process inspired by the art of origami.

This new technology can be implemented in energy storage devices found in flexible portable robots for humans, which require soft and flexible energy storage devices, or for those found in rehabilitation medical devices for the elderly and patients in need of physical assistance. In addition, these batteries are expected to be useful as power devices for the soft robots that are used on site during disasters to help conduct rescue missions. With their ability to move flexibly and change shape freely, robots equipped with these batteries can be used to access tight spaces blocked by obstacles during such disaster situations.

In the future, the KIMM research team hopes to develop technology capable of increasing the storage capacity of soft energy storage devices. The team also hopes to develop multifunctional flexible robots that combine artificial muscles with flexible robot actuation technology.

Dr Bongkyun Jang said that by applying the structure and design of snake scales, the KIMM research team has developed a battery that is not only safe to use, but also retains its flexibility and expandability. He also added that over time, he and his team aimed to continue follow-up research and development, so that this technology can be used for rehabilitative medical care and disaster relief and help ensure health. and the safety of the general public.

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The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) is a government-funded non-profit research institute under the Ministry of Science and ICT. Since its founding in 1976, KIMM has contributed to the economic growth of the country by performing R&D on key technologies in machinery and materials, performing reliability test evaluations and commercializing the products and technologies developed.

These research efforts were carried out with the support of the Development of Nano-based Omni-Tex Technology project at KIMM, the Global Frontier Project (Center for Advanced Meta-Materials) of the Ministry of Science and ICT, and the Alchemist project of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. The team’s findings were published online in Soft robotics, with the title “Bioinspired, Shape-Morphing Scale Battery for Untethered Soft Robots” (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/soro.2020.0175).


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