Prototype nano-satellites weighing less than 10kg could be partially powered by micro-batteries "printed" on to their structure within five years.

This is the claim of researchers working on the tiny energy systems, which could also power future micro unmanned air vehicles. The printed batteries' advantages are their light weight and the fact they can conform to non-flat surfaces. The rechargeable batteries can weigh just 800µg, be 9mm square and have an output of 1.3µWh/cm2. The process that prints the batteries is called direct writing and is under development by the US Naval Research Laboratory. A research facility to expand the work is being established at Princeton University.

Craig Arnold, a materials science assistant professor at Princeton, is setting up the new laboratory, which will be operational in the middle of this year. He says: "We still have to deal with the [battery's] packaging issue, and how we protect the battery from the environment. Air is no good and temperature fluctuations are no good."

The direct writing process uses a laser that transfers a fluid that contains polymers and metal particles on to a substrate.

Source: Flight International