Bing Hu, a post-doctoral fellow, prepares a small square of ordinary paper to with an ink that will deposit nanotubes on the surface that can then be charged with energy to create a battery. (Credit: Standford University)

Scientists have found a whole new use for copier paper.

According to Stanford University researchers, when ordinary office paper coated is coated with an inky layer of carbon nanotubes or nanowires, it will become lightweight, flexible and highly conductive battery or superconductor.

Scientists at Stanford University managed to turn a piece of paper that had been coated with ink made from silver and carbon into what has been called a “paper battery.” This discovery may open up new doors when designing future portable devices, like smartphones.

The work, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to paintable energy storage.

Since paper is made up of millions of tiny, interconnected fibers, paper is a good candidate to hold on to carbon nanotubes, providing a scaffold on which to build devices.

Standard copier paper used in our everyday life can be a solution in storing energy in a more efficient and cheap way, Dr Liangbing Hu, lead author on the research, told BBC News.

The experienced technology developed in the paper industry over a century can be transferred to improve the process and performance of these paper-based devices.

A team of researchers at Stanford University started with off-the-shelf copier paper, painting it with an ink made of carbon nanotubes.

The coated paper is then dipped in lithium-containing solutions and an electrolyte to provide the chemical reaction that generates a battery's electric current.

Watch a video explaining how they made it:

Nanotubes + ink + paper = instant battery

This sort of technology once perfected could then be used in such things as hybrid vehicles. There are more than just the power output benefits; think of how much weight will be saved.

Hu said they have also been experimenting with textiles, which could open the way for batteries made out of cloth.