Engineers at Rice University have figured out how to make spray-on, rechargeable batteries that could transform any surface, anywhere, into a device for collecting and storing energy.

Basically, the team broke down the elements of individual battery components and turned them into paints. Once they’d done that, they could turn any paintable surface into a working battery — including coffee mugs.

The final paints were layered on to glass, stainless steel, glazed ceramic tiles and flexible polymer sheets — the resulting “batteries” worked just as well as the regular version. The team even picked out a choice ceramic mug, spray-painted the word “rice” in capital letters using a stencil, and demonstrated its efficiency as a battery.

They also layered the batteries with solar cells, which meant that the cells could not only collect energy but store it.

There’s still some work to do to make the paint more resistant to the elements, but in theory one day it’ll be possible to spray-paint these battery components and solar cells on porches, buildings, roofs, bike helmets, cutlery, whatever and have them collect and store energy. It’s officially the future.

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