New Brunswick

UNB researcher develops stretchable laminate to power modern electronics

Researcher at UNB develops stretchable laminate that provides power to a wide range of electronics.

UNB researcher, who just received federal money for lab, says laminate can be crafted to work on small devices

Anna Ignaszak, associate professor of chemistry at UNB, shows off the laminate she's developing for use with modern electronics, especially small devices. (University of New Brunswick)

A professor at the University of New Brunswick is aiming to provide power to a wide range of electronics, with the help of a stretchy laminate.

For the past three years, Anna Ignaszak, an associate professor of chemistry, has been working to develop the rechargeable coating, called a capacitor.

Similar to the battery, it's designed to deliver power to smaller everyday devices such as smart watches and smartphones.

"The capacitors I'm working on are very flexible," she said. "You can stretch them, you can bend them.

"If you want a small elegant smartphone, we need small and flexible power systems."

The technology also aims to offset demands that gadgets can have on vehicles like planes and cars. 

Ignaszak, who started working at UNB two years ago, uses the example of an aircraft that has screens for passengers. The back of each screen would have a laminate that creates power, lowering the load on the aircraft's power system.

The research is part of the global drive for zero-emission technologies, she said.

Researchers are pushing for zero emission transportation, meaning replacing combustion engines with batteries.

"If we combine our flexible lightweight capacitor with bigger batteries we can actually make the whole system more efficient," Ignaszak said.

Helping first responders

She said her flexible laminate is different from other laminates, because it is stretchable and can be crafted for different sizes of modern technological devices.

"We are trying to catch up with technology for small portable applications," she said. "This capacitor will be a good fit for any device crafted for smaller size and weight."

We have every confidence in her and her research that she'll really make an impact.-Dave MaGee , acting vice-president of research at UNB

But there's a lot of work to be done to improve energy storage, which could take another two to three years or more.

"We are trying to catch up and feed to the most modern designs of portable electronics," Ignaszak said. "It's continuous change."

The UNB researcher said the laminate will also benefit first responders such as firefighters and soldiers, who use smaller devices, such as the lighting on their helmets or communication devices.

"We want those devices to be as small and as light as possible," she said. "Therefore, the power sources have to be very light — that way we actually help them."

Cutting edge of technology

A few weeks ago, Ignaszak received $150,000 from the federal government to buy specialized equipment for her lab and further develop the laminate.

Dave MaGee, acting vice-president of research at UNB, said her research is in an important area in terns if using electronic devices and moving away from petroleum-based fuels to produce electrical energy.

"This is a tremendously exciting field of research," said MaGee. "Energy storage and energy mobility is one of the cutting edges of researches in this area that is happening worldwide."

Ignaszak's project is one of more than 220 across the country to receive funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

"We have every confidence in her and her research that she'll really make an impact," he said.