Many devices use nanotechnology without actually being microscopic themselves. For example, nanoparticles are used regularly in products to give them special properties, such as in cloth to give it stain-repellent properties, or in fuel cells to increase the surface area of the reactive surface. A recently developed application of nanotech makes flat, stackable batteries that can be stored with no loss in energy, yet deliver their full power instantly when needed.

Using electrowetting technology and a superhydrophobic nanostructured surface, electronics technology developer mPhase Technologies has created a prototype nonvolatile battery that can be stored indefinitely with no loss in performance. In contrast to current reserve batteries that use mechanical activation, power cells based on this nanoscale technology have no moving parts and are inexpensive to produce in quantity.

The battery was created by etching a microscopic array of 350-nanometer-wide and 7-micron-high posts on the surface of a silicon wafer, then coating them with an oxide layer and a layer of hydrophobic polymer. An electrolyte placed on this surface stays separate (enabling indefinite storage) until the surface tension is reduced via electrowetting, causing it to cover the nanoposts to generate power.

An additional advantage of the technology is that it is scalable in two ways: multiple cells can be stacked for increased power and voltage, and portions of the cell can be activated in stages, extending the operating life in situations where small amounts of power are required at extended intervals. The technology is compatible with semiconductor processes, enabling power to be built into application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC)s, processors, and system-on-chips(SoC)s as well as other chip-scale packages.

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