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Responding to Climate Change 2011

Home | Spotlight on Energy | Fraunhofer ENAS Screen-printing energy & paper-thin power

Screen-printing energy and paper-thin power

The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS

Fig. 1: printed thin film battery, nominal voltage of this battery 3.0V
Fig. 1: printed thin film battery, nominal voltage of this battery 3.0V
The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS focuses on smart systems integration by using micro and nano technologies. Special emphasis is put on:
  • design, development, testing and packaging of MEMS and NEMS;
  • metallisation and interconnection systems for micro electronics;
  • new sensor and system concepts with innovative material systems;
  • printed functionalities; and,
  • reliability of components and systems.

Intelligent functions, based on microsystems technologies, are found in many applications of daily life. Future generations of innovative products are still more intelligent, more complex, and possess more sophisticated functions. Additionally, aspects like environmental friendliness and energy efficiency are taken more and more into account.

Smart systems address environmental, societal and economic challenges such as limited resources, climate change, aging populations, and globalisation. They are increasingly used in many sectors, including energy and environment, healthcare, logistics and security. Forecasts show that, up to 2020, smart systems applications can reduce 23% of global emissions with an equivalent of 9.2Gt Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e), by providing smart solutions for energy management and distribution, smart control of electrical drives, and the optimisation of logistic or energy-efficient facility management. See

Smart systems go beyond traditional microsystems. They consist of different components and integrate different functionalities such as signal processing, sensors, actuators, power, communication units with a high degree of miniaturisation and flexibility in one package. They may also be energy autonomous and networked. During their development, multiple functionality, materials and devices based on different technologies all have to be considered.
The integration of nano materials and printed functionalities causes new challenges and requires new approaches in design, testability, and reliability. The main challenge is to integrate different functions and components using different materials and technologies in one system, while maintaining reliability and security at reasonable costs.

Printing technologies are highly productive, cost-efficient manufacturing methods which are usually run in ambient conditions. Today these technologies are employed to manufacture single components of smart systems like antennae and batteries on an increasing scale.

Screen printing can now manufacture thin film batteries. It is a versatile printing technology which prints onto various flexible substrates, such as paper, plastic foil or textiles. Another advantage of screen printing is in its suitability for use on high-layer thicknesses up to 100µm.

Fig. 2: Design scheme of printed battery (explosion plot)

How it works

For the primary zinc-manganese battery, Figure 1, the different battery components are deposited layer by layer onto a flexible plastic substrate. As a first step, the current collectors (carbon) are printed onto a 75μm thick PET (polyethylene-terephthalate) foil. After drying the first layer, the positive and negative electrode material is printed onto the corresponding current collectors. The positive and negative electrodes consist of manganese dioxide-based and zinc-based inks respectively. Subsequently, both positive and negative electrodes are coated with a zinc chloride based electrolyte. Finally, the batteries are encapsulated with high-performance adhesive tape using a proprietary assembling technique. The design scheme is shown in Figure 2.

The printed primary batteries are very thin and lightweight. A battery with a nominal voltage of 1.5V is typically 0.7mm thin and weighs about 1g. The batteries are printed onto plastic foil; with this flexibility, they can be manufactured in a roll-to-roll printing process. The materials used are readily available, inexpensive and without environmental risk as they are free of mercury or other toxic materials.

Fraunhofer ENAS will continue to explore environmentally-friendly power sources for integrated smart systems, based on enzymes and new polymers, for copious printed electronics.

The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS logo
The Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS

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