Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Missouri University of Science and Technology created a 3D printing method that enables batteries to last longer. The 3D micro-lattice structure with controlled porosity produces high capacity lithium-ion batteries. Results of this research are published in the journal of Additive Manufacturing.

Until this research, 3D printed battery capacities were limited to extrusion-based printing, where a wire of material is progressively removed from a nozzle, creating continuous structures. Interdigitated structures were possible using this method. With this new method, the researchers can 3D print the battery electrodes by rapidly assembling droplets one-by-one into 3D structures. The new structures present complex geometries impossible to produce using typical extrusion methods.

In the case of lithium-ion batteries, the electrodes with porous architectures can lead to higher charge capacities,” said Panat. “This is because such architectures allow the lithium to penetrate through the electrode volume leading to very high electrode utilisation, and thereby higher energy storage capacity. In normal batteries, 30-50 per cent of the total electrode volume is unutilised. Our method overcomes this issue by using 3D printing where we create a microlattice electrode architecture that allows the efficient transport of lithium through the entire electrode, which also increases the battery charging rates.”

According to one members of the research team, the fact that these droplets are separated from each other enables to create these new complex geometries. “If this was a single stream of material, as is in the case of extrusion printing, we wouldn’t be able to make them. This is a new thing. I don’t believe anybody until now has used 3D printing to create these kinds of complex structures.”

According to the scientists, this 3D printing method might be used for industrial applications in about 3 years.

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