A New Stretchable Battery Can Power Wearable Electronics - Lab Manager Magazine - Canada News Media
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A New Stretchable Battery Can Power Wearable Electronics – Lab Manager Magazine



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People flex and bend. Too bad their gadgets can’t. Now an experimental battery described in the Nov. 26 edition of Nature Communications promises to do just that. Shown here powering a tiny light, the soft battery maintained a constant power output even when stretched to nearly two times its original length. In laboratory tests it also provided consistent power when squeezed, folded, and stretched multiple times. A team led by graduate student David Mackanic, in the lab of Stanford chemical engineer Zhenan Bao, is currently refining its design to generate more power and to prove that the technology can work outside the lab. BAO LAB, STANFORD ENGINEERING

Electronics are showing up everywhere: on our laps, in pockets and purses and, increasingly, snuggled up against our skin or sewed into our clothing.

But the adoption of wearable electronics has so far been limited by their need to derive power from bulky, rigid batteries that reduce comfort and may present safety hazards due to chemical leakage or combustion.

Now Stanford University researchers have developed a soft and stretchable battery that relies on a special type of plastic to store power more safely than the flammable formulations used in conventional batteries today.

Related Article: Engineers Use Heat-Free Tech for Flexible Electronics; Print Metal on Flowers, Gelatin

“Until now we haven’t had a power source that could stretch and bend the way our bodies do, so that we can design electronics that people can comfortably wear,” said chemical engineer Zhenan Bao, who teamed up with materials scientist Yi Cui to develop the device they describe in the Nov. 26 edition of Nature Communications.

The use of plastics, or polymers, in batteries is not new. For some time, lithium ion batteries have used polymers as electrolytes—the energy source that transports negative ions to the battery’s positive pole. Until now, however, those polymer electrolytes have been flowable gels that could, in some cases, leak or burst into flame.

To avoid such risks, the Stanford researchers developed a polymer that is solid and stretchable rather than gooey and potentially leaky, and yet still carries an electric charge between the battery’s poles. In lab tests the experimental battery maintained a constant power output even when squeezed, folded, and stretched to nearly twice its original length.

The prototype is thumbnail-sized and stores roughly half as much energy, ounce for ounce, as a comparably sized conventional battery. Graduate student David Mackanic said the team is working to increase the stretchable battery’s energy density, build larger versions of the device and run future experiments to demonstrate its performance outside the lab. One potential application for such a device would be to power stretchable sensors designed to stick to the skin to monitor heart rate and other vital signs as part of the BodyNet wearable technology being developed in Bao’s lab.

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New soft, stretchable battery can safely power wearables – TechRepublic



The battery, developed at Stanford University, uses a special plastic to store power more safely than conventional batteries.

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Researchers David Mackanic, Xuzhou Yan, Yi Cui, and Zhenan Bao from Stanford University’s engineering school have created a soft, stretchable battery prototype for wearables. The new type of battery relies on a unique plastic to store power in a safer manner, compared to the flammable materials used in conventional batteries, according to a Stanford Engineering Magazine article.

SEE: Apple Watch Series 5: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The use of polymers, or plastics, is not new, according to the magazine article; however, some previous polymers existed as flowable gels that could sometimes leak or burst into flame.  

The new battery is ideal for use in wearables, such as smartwatches, because it’s soft and flexible. 

“Current batteries are stiff and rigid, making them non-conformable to the human body. This means the batteries must be small in order to not cause discomfort,” said David Mackanic, one of the project’s researchers. 

“Additionally, our battery uses a polymer electrolyte, which is safer than the liquid electrolyte currently used for many wearable batteries. Our battery’s electrolyte is safer because it is less combustible and flammable, and won’t leak,” Mackanic said.

Outlined further in the Nature Communications scientific journal, even though it is constructed differently, the battery can still carry an electric charge between battery poles.

In the testing lab, the experimental battery kept consistent power output even when it was folded, squeezed, and stretched to almost twice its original length. 

The battery is thumbnail-sized and is able to store approximately half as much energy as a similar sized traditional battery, according to the Stanford magazine.

What can the battery be used in? 

“We are still experimenting with new ways to incorporate our battery into wearable electronics. This battery could be integrated into things like wristbands for smartwatches, allowing the actual smartwatch to be thinner and more comfortable,” Mackanic said. “These batteries could also be incorporated comfortably into clothing, providing a power source for smart textiles.” 

While this battery is undoubtedly impressive, it only holds half the power of a traditional battery, which is a serious limiting factor, said Ramon Llamas, research director of mobile devices at International Data Corporation. 

While Mackanic said this battery could be used in smartwatches, hearing aids, smart glasses, smart textiles, footwear, on-body health monitoring patches, and more, Llamas noted that most wearables don’t necessarily need a stretchable battery to begin with, especially on systems like fitness trackers or smartwatches. 

The most practical use case currently, based on the battery’s size, would be in disposable heart rate monitors. People typically wear heart rate monitors for approximately 24 hours before disposing of them. Stretchable batteries would be great for this application since they are flexible, Llamas said. 

However, Mackanic indicated that future versions of the stretchable battery could be bigger, allowing for more advanced use cases. 

“Right now, the energy density of our battery is lower than conventional lithium-ion batteries,” Mackanic said. 

However, since the battery is so flexible, future prototypes can be made bigger, allowing for more power and battery life, without losing comfort, Mackanic said.  

The battery is still being refined and going through the manufacturing process, after which the battery will undergo advanced safety testing. For now, the battery remains a prototype. 

Mackanic said it would likely be between 12 and 18 months until they can provide completely certified test batteries to manufacturers. 

For more, check out How wearable devices and sensors could make some of the most dangerous jobs safer on TechRepublic. 

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Plague Inc. dev advises that game doesn’t represent coronavirus – MSPoweruser



In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Plague Inc. developer Ndemic Creations has politely reminded fans that the game isn’t a “scientific model” and isn’t a representation of how the virus will work.

A statement posted to the Ndemic Creations website says that while Plague Inc. is designed to be “realistic and informative,” it’s also designed to not sensationalise “serious real-world issues” and that the coronavirus is a “very real situation.”

You can read the company’s statement in its entirety below.

The Coronavirus outbreak in China is deeply concerning and we’ve received a lot of questions from players and the media.

Plague Inc. has been out for eight years now and whenever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks.

We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalising serious real-world issues. This has been recognised by the CDC and other leading medical organisations around the world.

However, please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities.

The company also provided links to fans looking to find out more about the CDC and Plague Inc. and for those looking for more information on the coronavirus outbreak.

While you can always enjoy Plague Inc. as a fun and informative apocalypse simulator, just bear in mind that the coronavirus outbreak is very real and very dangerous and not something to be joked about.

You can help prevent yourself catching some illnesses by using safe hygiene practices. These include things like frequently washing your hands with soap and water, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and immediately sanitising your hands after, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, and by ensuring you cook all your food properly.

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Report: iOS 14 to Support Same iPhone Models as iOS 13 – PCMag.com



Apple’s software-focused WWDC event in June is where the company is expected to announce the next versions of its iOS and iPadOS. It’s over four months until WWDC, but there’s already news of which old Apple devices will qualify for an upgrade.

As 9To5Mac reports, the supported device list comes via a rumor reported on French website iPhonesoft. If true, it’s good news for anyone still relying on a very old iPhone such as the iPhone SE or iPhone 6S. Apparently Apple is set to repeat what it did with iOS 13 last year and support the exact same range of models.

With that in mind, come WWDC we should see iOS 14 upgrades offered to 14 existing iPhone models, including:

  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE

If you own a seventh-generation iPod touch you’re also going to receive the iOS 14 upgrade, apparently.

We also know that the iPhone 12 line-up, which should appear at some point in September, will inevitably ship with iOS 14 installed. And there’s one other iPhone to keep an eye out for. Apple is expected to launch a new, cheap 4.7-inch iPhone in March, which would ultimately ship with iOS 13 followed by a swift upgrade to iOS 14 after WWDC.

Unlike iOS 14, iPadOS 14 is expected to drop support for some models. Notably, the iPad mini 4 and the iPad Air 2 won’t be given the option of the new operating system. It’s thought this is because they both use variants of Apple’s A8 series chips. iPhone support has already moved to only support A9 chips onwards and therefore it makes sense to do the same for iPad. The list of iPad models getting iPadOS 14 therefore includes:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (7th generation)
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad (5th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)

This is just a rumor, and one that won’t be officially confirmed as true (or not) until June. I’m also suspicious of support remaining for the old iPhone SE if Apple introduces a new cheap iPhone in March and ends up calling it the iPhone SE2.

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