Energy Storage into Structural Materials: No More Power Cords for Devices

structural supercapacitor

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have come up with an intriguing prospect that has complete essence of futuretech in itself. Their current interest hovers around the likelihood of a more technologically enhanced capacity for storing electrical energy directly across applications including but not limited to EVs, laptops and home appliances.

They have demonstrated this idea by fabricating small wafers that have the potential of storing and discharging considerable amount of electricity while they are put through static loads or moving forces like vibrations or impacts.

This prospect of storing energy in structural materials looks promising and if given a push, this whole idea would be a game changer in developing future technologies. Limitations that are created by external power sources including plugs would get diluted once there will be an integration of energy within the components that are required to build a system.

Chemistry of the Supercap

Researchers have fabricated a dull grey wafer called supercapacitor. This supercap has the ability of storing electricity by accumulating electrically charged ions on the surface of a spongy material than hoarding it in chemical reactions like the conventional batteries. Consequent upon which, these supercaps can charge and release energy within minutes and can operate for millions of cycles while batteries can operate for thousands of cycles with rate of charging and discharging corresponds to couple of hours.

The researchers claimed that their revolutionary structural supercapacitor can function impeccably in storing and discharging energy under forces. It can withstand a pressure until 44psi and can resist more than 80g vibrational accelerations, which is more force than turbine blades in a jet engine.

structural supercapacitor-side view

Its mechanical robustness exceeds the packed commercial supercapacitor. Experiments have shown that an unpacked or even in a structurally integrated state, the new supercap can accumulate extra energy and functions at higher voltages relatively.

Lithium-ion Batteries versus the Supercaps

Nevertheless, lithium-ion batteries grab more points on electrical energy storage capability since a single lithium-ion battery can store ten times more energy than the new supercaps but the longevity of supercaps is much more, nearly thousand times more than the lithium-ion batteries.

One might say that in order to stay ahead of competition, supercaps need to become gigantic and heavier to store than same amount of energy. However, this difference fades away when consideration of multifunctional energy storage systems is put forward.

Source: Vanderbilt University

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