CHARGE YOUR PHONE IN SEC­ONDS

Minia­ture su­per­ca­pac­i­tor bat­tery pro­to­type built

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RE­SEARCHERS at the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida have pro­duced a pro­to­type su­per­ca­pac­i­tor bat­tery for small de­vices that can be charged in sec­onds, but po­ten­tially last all week. It can also be recharged 30,000 times with­out de­grad­ing.

Su­per­ca­pac­i­tors store en­ergy elec­tro­stat­i­cally on the sur­face of a ma­te­rial. There are no chem­i­cal pro­cesses, which are slow and cause phys­i­cal dam­age to the struc­ture of the bat­tery. A su­per­ca­pac­i­tor can charge and dis­charge ex­tremely rapidly, be­cause the only mov­ing thing in­ter­nally is the elec­tri­cal charge.

Tra­di­tion­ally, su­per­ca­pac­i­tor tech has been held back by low en­ergy den­sity. To get a us­able amount of power meant un­fea­si­bly large ca­pac­i­tors, lim­it­ing pre­vi­ous ap­pli­ca­tions to buses and trains. This is where the new gen­er­a­tion of nano­ma­te­ri­als comes in, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to build huge sur­face ar­eas into a tiny film of ma­te­rial. The pro­to­type con­tains mil­lions of nanome­terthick coated wires to store the static charge.

Be­fore we get too ex­cited, this is still at the proof of con­cept phase, but build­ing a work­ing pro­to­type looks en­cour­ag­ing. The Florida team is among many such groups work­ing on new bat­tery tech­nolo­gies, and many use nan­otech­nolgy in one form or an­other. A group based at MIT has de­vel­oped a new form of an­ode built from car­bon nan­otubes, to boost the ef­fec­tive­ness of Lithium-ion bat­ter­ies, which shows prom­ise.

The world has been wait­ing for a re­place­ment for chem­i­cal bat­ter­ies for years; while ev­ery­thing has got more ca­pa­ble and faster, it has drained bat­ter­ies all the more rapidly. If nan­otech­nol­ogy ca­pac­i­tors can be made com­mer­cially vi­able, wait­ing hours for your car or phone to charge will be­come a dis­tant mem­ory.

–CL

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