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Korean boffins crack art of bendy batteries

Discovery could herald more flexible phones

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South Korean boffins have discovered the secret to flexible, shape-conforming lithium ion batteries in what could be a major step on the road to flexible smartphones.

The researchers, led by professor Lee Sang-young of South Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, made the discovery by developing “fluid-like” or “shape-conformable” polymer electrolytes.

These not only make the battery more flexible but also enhance stability compared to conventional batteries, which use liquefied electrolytes placed into square-shaped, inflexible cases, according to the Korean Joongang Daily.

“Conventional lithium-ion batteries that use liquefied electrolytes had safety problems as the film that separates the electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative elements may come in contact, causing an explosion,” said an official at the Korean science ministry, quoted by the 'paper.

“Because the new battery uses flexible but solid materials, and not liquids, it can be expected to show a much higher level of stability than conventional rechargeable batteries.”

The new batteries are apparently created by spreading the polymer electrolytes on electrodes and then blasting them with ultra-violet rays for 30 seconds – a process faster than that used to manufacture conventional batteries.

The reality of flexible mobile devices is still some years off, but with this announcement, and Samsung’s various ambitious concept designs for bendy tablets and foldable OLED displays, speculation about flexible electronics no longer seems like quite such a contortion.

The research paper dated December 2012, was made public by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on Tuesday. ®

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