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Dissolving Battery Could Help Spies, Environment

by Alyssa Newcomb /
Graphic rendering of a self-destructing, lithium-ion battery.
Graphic rendering of a self-destructing, lithium-ion battery.Ashley Christopherson / Iowa State Univ.

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If James Bond weren't a fictional character, he'd probably be clamoring to get his hands on these disappearing batteries.

Scientists at Iowa State University say they've developed a battery that is 5 mm long and 1 mm thick that can dissolve in water over the course of a half hour.

The development, they say, could have a wide-ranging applications, from keeping state secrets out of enemy hands to washing away environmental sensor with rain.

Graphic rendering of a self-destructing, lithium-ion battery.
Graphic rendering of a self-destructing, lithium-ion battery.Ashley Christopherson / Iowa State Univ.

Reza Montazami, a materials scientist at Iowa State University who worked on the project, told NBC News the lithium-ion battery has "all the working components" of a typical commercial battery.

It can deliver 2.5 volts and has about enough energy to power a desktop calculator for 15 minutes, according to Montazami and his team, who published their findings in theJournal of Polymer Science.

But when dropped in water, the battery pulls off a disappearing act over the course of a half hour.

Its polymer casing will swell, breaking apart and dissolving electrodes, according to researchers. The only thing left behind, Montazami said, are dispersed nanoparticles.

"If you use the same approach and making everything bigger it would take a longer time," Montazami said.

Related: Will This Battery Change Renewable Energy Forever?

Moving forward, if the project gets more funding, Montazami said he hopes to explore building a transient battery that can be triggered remotely — a technology he envisions being useful for military surveillance.

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