We've all heard the claims that nanotechnology is going to change the future, but up until now there hasn't been much in the way of truly practical applications. But Stanford scientists might be onto something with the world's first paper battery. Even electric cars may someday benefit from the emerging technology.
Specially designed nano ink made of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires is painted on regular paper to create a highly conductive battery or supercapacitor in a matter of minutes.
The cutting edge research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. Nanomaterials offer scientists the opportunity to fashion incredibly tiny structures with complex electronic components, without the weight or bulk - suitable for all manner of electrical and medical devices.
The Stanford research also suggests that paper supercapacitors, in addition to paper batteries, may last more than 40,000 charge-discharge cycles, thousands of times better than regular lithium batteries currently used in the bulk of electronic devices today.
Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering believes the technology will quickly be commercialised, calling it a "...low-cost, flexible electrode for any electrical device."
Electric and hybrid cars may be some of the biggest products to gain from the new battery technology. Up until now, the price and charge capacity of lithium batteries have held back the growth of the electric car market.
Electric cars depend on quick bursts of energy and a paper supercapacitor is perfect for its high surface-to-volume ratio. In the future, cars could be literally be powered by the paper beneath the hood.
Rapid recharge technologies developed by MIT have also shown positive results in this area.
The technology might also allow videos and music to be embedded into newspapers and magazines. GPS sensors could be built into nano-wiring at a cost cheap enough to track the delivery of goods all over the globe.