With the advent of flexible battery technology that can be integrated into fabric and other materials, wearable devices that conform to complex shapes like the human body become possible. For wearable electronics to enjoy widespread adoption, the batteries that power them must be flexible, store a charge for prolonged periods, and be rechargeable. Such technology now exists: flexible batteries that can be stretched in multiple directions and edited into different shapes and structures, while maintaining the ability to store electrical energy.

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a customizable power source that can be cut, folded, or stretched, without losing its function. A news release on the on the NTU website states that the wearable power source — a supercapacitor — works like a fast-charging battery and can be recharged many times. According to NTU scientists, the supercapacitor is customizable or “editable,” in that its structure and shape can be changed after it has been manufactured but still retaining its function as a power source. While existing stretchable supercapacitors are made into predetermined designs and structures with predesigned stretchability, this new battery technology can be stretched multi-directionally, allowing it to match more easily to other electrical components. The NTU scientists say the supercapacitor can store an electrical charge four times higher than most existing stretchable supercapacitors. When stretched to four times its original length, it maintains 98 per cent of its ability to store electrical energy, even after 10,000 stretch-and-release cycles. The scientists have filed a patent for the technology and believe the supercapacitor could be easily mass-produced with low production costs. They hope to one day combine the flexible supercapacitors with wearable sensors for health and sports performance diagnostics.

As lead scientist Chen Xiaodong, Associate Chair at the NTU School of Materials Science & Engineering, pointed out, a reliable, editable supercapacitor is important for the development of the wearable electronics industry. The scientists predict the flexible supercapacitor will make it possible for wearable electronics to power themselves and connect and communicate with other devices in the home and elsewhere.