A researcher in Ireland developing 3-D printed batteries won a five-year, €2.5 million ($2.8 million) grant from the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant to develop the technology.

The technology, called 3D2DPrint, is “a new type of extremely long-lasting battery -- one that can come in any shape or size and can be camouflaged within any type of material,” according to a press release issued by Science Foundation Ireland, a funding body. 

This month, Professor Valeria Nicolosi of Trinity College, Dublin, secured the grant, bringing 3D2DPrint's funding up to €11 million ($12.2 million) in the last five years.

The new cash will go toward establishing a multidisciplinary research group around 3D2DPrint, comprising three senior post-doctoral researchers and three doctoral candidates, to join an existing team of 25.

Although details of the battery production process have not been released, Science Foundation Ireland said it might be capable of being recharged in a few minutes and molded into any shape or size. The technology combines two-dimensional nanomaterials and three-dimensional printing.

The technology could also last 50 times longer than current chemistries by harvesting energy from surroundings, according to Science Foundation Ireland. “The project Professor Nicolosi and her team are working on will develop fully customizable batteries,” said the organization. “They will be custom-made and formulated for whatever specific application needed.”

Richard Coull, senior experimental officer in the Characterization & Processing of Advanced Materials Group at Trinity College, said the main uses for the technology would be “any small portable, mobile application that requires fast charge, discharge [and] cycling.”

This might include powering wearable technologies such as smart fitness watches and healthcare devices such as cardiac implants.

“In the future, we hope to take advantage of the two primary enablers of 3-D fabrication: complex geometries and customized geometries,” Coull said. “Complexity lends itself to optimal energy conservation, and customization lends itself to personal conservation. Additive fabrication can exploit both paths at reduced cost and [with] enhanced performance, compared to traditional fabrication methods.”

He confirmed 3D2DPrint technology could be used in stationary storage applications “where complex geometry would be the enabling differentiator.”

It might also be possible to merge the technology with solar cells, for example, in order to achieve more compact generation and storage products than those available at present, he said.

In addition, he said: “Some studies suggest that the cost of fabrication could be three orders of magnitude lower than current methods.”

The team is aiming to commercialize the technology within five to 10 years, “depending on the business model,” Coull said.

KIC InnoEnergy, a European body promoting energy innovation, has welcomed the news. The organization is not supporting 3D2DPrint yet, however.

“We are looking for something disruptive on the storage side,” said Kenneth Johansson, CEO of KIC InnoEnergy Sweden. “It’s very much needed.”

And the fact that the research is being carried out by an experienced academic team means it is likely to be attractive to incubators and venture capital investors, Johansson told GTM. There are “not that many” such teams seeking to commercialize projects, he said.

KIC InnoEnergy uses public funding to help startups, and is currently fostering fewer than a dozen energy storage concepts across the whole of Europe. Its startups include Elestor, a hydrogen-bromine flow battery maker; Ecovat, which is touting an underground thermal storage concept for microgrids; and 3SSolar, which makes battery-based backup power systems for small to medium-sized businesses.  

KIC InnoEnergy typically fosters startups for between two and 10 years, at which point they usually seek venture-capital backing. Even at the venture capital stage, though, only one out of every 10 concepts is expected to make it through to full commercialization.

Nevertheless, Arshad Saleem, head of the smart grid and storage division at KIC InnoEnergy, had this to say: “I think it’s extremely attractive. Storage is really the big thing right now.”