The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Best invention of 2022: The Swiss paper battery

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 1 June 2023
A water-activated paper battery from Switzerland is one of the world’s best inventions of 2022 according to TIME magazine. The biodegradable disposable battery points the way to environmentally friendly electronics.
Best invention of 2022: The Swiss paper battery
The Swiss company that created the water battery: Empa (Credit: SwissTech).

(SwissTech) Every year for over two decades, TIME editors have highlighted the most impactful new products and ideas. This year’s inventions include life-mapping artificial intelligence, diamonds made from excess carbon in the air, and the most powerful telescope ever – changing how we live, work, play, and think about what’s possible.

For the second time since 2009, when a Swiss biotech violin made the list of best inventions, a Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) invention has made it into the list of the best inventions of 2022 in the experimental category: a paper battery that is activated with water.

It sounds impossible: Just add water to a piece of paper and get energy

TIME magazine

The disposable battery is powered by a small piece of paper to which salt and ink containing graphite, zinc and carbon have been applied. If a small amount of water is added, as Empa explains in a press release, the salt contained in the paper dissolves, charged ions are released and the electrolyte becomes ionically conductive.

This step activates the battery: the ions distribute themselves in the paper. This causes the zinc at the anode to oxidize and release electrons. When the circuit is closed, a small electrical device can be operated. 

Best invention of 2022: The Swiss paper battery
The paper battery can run low-power electronics such as the liquid crystal display (LCD) alarm clock connected to the battery (Credit: SwissTech).
Two hours of constant power

The analysis of the proof of concept, published in July in Scientific Reportsrevealed that after two drops of water were added, the battery within the paper activated within 20 seconds and, when not connected to an energy-consuming device, reached a stable voltage of 1.2 volts.

I see a new role for paper…that could also be an answer to the growing environmental concern over electronic waste.

Gustav Nyström, Empa

The voltage of a standard AA alkaline battery is 1.5 volts. After one hour, the one-cell battery’s performance dropped significantly as the paper dried out. But after the researchers added two extra drops of water, the battery maintained a stable operating voltage of 0.5 volts for another hour. This way, the water-activated paper battery was able to power an alarm clock.

Best invention of 2022: The Swiss paper battery
Environmentally-friendly recycling and waste is already a big part of the Swiss culture.
Minimizing the environmental impact

The director of the Cellulose & Wood Materials Lab at Empa, Gustav Nyström, is convinced that within two to five years, the technology could be used in power-saving disposable electronics such as medical diagnostic equipment and smart packaging.

Making both paper and zinc and the other components biodegradable could significantly minimize the environmental impact of disposable, low-power electronics and lead to truly green electronics.

This article was reprinted with permission from SwissTech.

Most Read

Sunday, April 7 – Round Up

7 April 2024
Sunday, April 7 – Round Up
Switzerland may fund French nuclear projects as it grapples with internal issues in the news this Sunday morning.

Swiss Employers Association: Increase Retirement Ages

8 April 2024
Swiss Employers Association: Increase Retirement Ages
Following the rejection of a pension initiative, the Swiss Employers' Association (SAV) recommends a gradual raise in retirement age to 66.

Diehl Defence Will Develop Drones For Swiss Defence Firm Skysec

12 April 2024
Diehl Defence Will Develop Drones For Swiss Defence Firm Skysec
Diehl Defence collaborates with Skysec Defence under a new agreement to enhance drone defense capabilities for military use.

Zurich VC Lakestar Secures $600 Million In New Funds

12 April 2024
Zurich VC Lakestar Secures $600 Million In New Funds
Lakestar successfully closes two new funds, accumulating $600 million, to advance Europe's digital sovereignty.

Stay in Touch!

Noteworthy

Lucerne Asset Manager Jailed For Years
Lucerne Asset Manager Jailed For Years
17 April 2024
Switzerland Moves to Ban Extremist Symbols
Switzerland Moves to Ban Extremist Symbols
17 April 2024