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An organic radical battery (ORB) is a type of battery notable for its flexibility, rapid charging, and small size. These batteries are so named because, unlike traditional metal batteries, they use an organic radical polymer, a type of plastic, to produce energy. The radical in the compound name refers to the stable radical in its molecular structure that gives the compound many of its unique properties. In the battery, this polymer takes the form of a gel, which is permeated with electrolytes.
Using a gel as its core material gives the organic radical battery many advantages over traditional batteries. It is thin — just 0.0118 inches (300 microns or 0.3 mm), or slightly thicker than a business card. In addition, because the gel offers little electrical resistance, the battery can be charged in less than 30 seconds. It is also rechargeable and can be expected to have a longer service life than conventional batteries. The use of gel also makes the organic radical battery about as flexible as a sheet of paper.
The organic radical battery is also environmentally friendly. Conventional batteries use heavy metals such as mercury, lead, or cadmium — all toxic substances that are environmentally damaging if not properly disposed of at recycling centers. By contrast, this battery contains no toxic metals. It is also neither flammable nor explosive.
It is likely that the organic radical battery will first be used in devices that can benefit from its small size. Possible applications include sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, and “smart” building materials. It has also been used in demonstrations as an emergency power source. A battery made with four series-connected cells can be connected to a personal computer’s power supply. When a power failure or drop occurs, it can power the computer for the additional 10 or 20 seconds required to back up data — a process that would be uneconomical with metal batteries.
The organic radical battery also has a higher energy density than conventional lithium-ion batteries, meaning it could be useful in mobile phones, laptops, and other devices that require rechargeable batteries. One thing this battery has in common with lithium-ion batteries is its structure, meaning that existing production lines would require little modification to produce them.