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Flexible Battery Could Lead to Gadgets That Fold Up

Korean scientists have created a battery that’s so super-thin and flexible that it could one day lead to gadgets with big screens that can be folded away into your pocket.

A big limitation on the screen size of portable electronics is screen size. Since today’s phones, tablets and e-readers are rigid, there’s an upper limit to what can fit in a pocket or handbag. But the gadget can fold up, that’s another story.

We’ve had flexible screens for a while — both E Ink screens (common on ereaders) and OLEDs (on some phones) can be made flexible. However, other components aren’t quite so adaptable, especially the battery, which tends to be one of the largest single parts of any portable device. A folding battery would be a big step toward bendable gadgets.

Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and his team just made that happen, PhysOrg reports. Lee was able to create a lithium-ion battery that’s razor-thin and — this is key — retains its voltage even while being bent. You can see in the video above the battery powering a blue LED, which never flickers when the battery is twisted again and again. It’s later tested with a voltmeter while bending, and the voltage hardly changes at all.

Lee is now looking into mass-production techniques and the possibility of stacking the batteries for greater power output. There are also the bigger questions about the practicability and durability of flexible gadgets, but it’s good to know the main technical roadblocks are solvable.