Laser Method to Create Micro Energy Units

Direct laser writing to create hybrid nanocatalysts into any patterned geometric shape, including the Mizzou Tigers logo. (Source: R. Owens, College of Engineering)

Direct laser writing to create hybrid nanocatalysts into any patterned geometric shape, including the Mizzou Tigers logo. (Source: R. Owens, U. Missouri)

In the race to design smaller handheld devices and smartphones, a key factor is decreasing the sizes of components. As the demand for thinner and lighter micro­electronic devices increases, manu­facturers often are limited by how oddly shaped the energy sources must become to make them conform to the smaller space. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, have developed a method of transferring an energy source to virtually any shape. Using an efficient laser-writing technique, MU scientists can help smartphone manu­facturers potentially fabricate energy storage units like micro­batteries and micro fuel cells that are more environ­mentally friendly, highly designable and thin.

“The direct laser writing method and technique has seen a rapid ad­vancement in the past decade,” said Jian Lin, an assistant professor in the Department of Mecha­nical and Aero­space Engineering in the MU College of Engineering. “The main goal of our research was to find an efficient and cost-effective way to integrate nano­structures with micro energy storage units for appli­cations in micro-electronics. Our lab decided to test whether catalysts could be synthesized and patterned on any surface by a one-step laser processing method to produce micro­batteries and micro fuel cells in the shapes dictated by computer programs.”

With this in mind, Lin and his team, including Heng Deng, a doctoral candidate at MU, set out to prove their theory. They adapted the DLW method to synthesize and pattern hybrid nano­catalysts, or fuel sources, into complex geometric shapes. Using computer-controlled laser writing that uses higher heat and pressure, the scientists were able to produce a surface that became electrically conducive and also has catalytic func­tionalities.

“This is the first step in manu­facturing micro fuel cells that convert chemical energy into electrical energy and bat­teries that can integrate into micro­circuits”, said Lin. “Also this technique has been proven to produce micro­super­capacitors. By honing the process, handheld device and smartphone manu­facturers will be able to produce components in whatever shape or size they choose, greatly impacting the size of these devices. Also, manu­facturers will be able to choose more environ­mentally friendly catalysts for generating energy such as hydrogen or oxygen, which are considered cleaner fuels. The possi­bilities will be endless.” (Source: U. Missouri)

Reference: H. Deng et al.: Laser induced MoS2/carbon hybrids for hydrogen evolution reaction catalysts, J. Mater. Chem. A, 4, 6824 (2016); DOI: 10.1039/csta09322h

Link: Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (J. Lin), University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

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