By Drew Johnson
Friday, Sep 21st, 2007 @ 9:09 am
 
Researchers at upstate New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a battery that very closely resembles paper. The new batteries are made of 90% cellulose -- the same plant cells that goes into making news print, photocopier paper and books.

"It's essentially a regular piece of paper, but it's made in a very intelligent way," said Professor Robert Linhardt, one of the co-authors of a paper outlining the discovery.

According to CNN, the paper-thin batteries can be cut, rolled or molded and still function normally. "If you cut the battery in half it would be like cutting a piece of paper in half. It functions no matter how many times you cut it because it is molecularly integrated," said Linhardt.

And, unlike conventional batteries, the cellulose-derived batteries are non-toxic and won't freeze because they contain no water. The materials to make these batteries are currently inexpensive but researches have yet to find a way to cheaply mass produce them.

This technology could have a huge impact of the automobile industry -- particularly in hybrids. One of the limiting factors of the hybrid car is that its batteries take up a lot of room and limit cargo and passenger space. With this new technology, batteries could now be molded into the door panels, under the headliner or anywhere else in the car, freeing space and making hybrids more functional.

Researchers are optimistic that the technology could be available for automotive use as soon at 2020.