A Future Where an Electric Car Doesn’t Need a Battery for Energy?

Close up of structrual supercapacitor
Close up of structrual supercapacitor (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

Can you imagine a future where electrical gadgets are no longer limited by plugs and external power sources?  Well researchers at Vanderbilt University in the United States have.

Graduate student Andrew Westover and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint have  developed  a supercapacitor that stores electricity by assembling electrically charged ions on the surface of a porous material, instead of storing it in chemical reactions the way batteries do. As a result, the supercapacitor can charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours, and operate for millions of cycles, instead of thousands of cycles like batteries.

If all of this sounds like something from the movie Back to the Future (remember the Flux Capacitor that powered that snazzy DeLorean), the implications of this supercapacitor to those of us that don’t speak engineer is the following:   electrical energy could be stored in the very material that a device is made out of, negating the requirement of an electrical cord or battery.  An electric car could run on the energy stored in its chassis and your laptop might be powered by its casing.

If you think this research project is the only one of its kind, guess again.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy is investing $8.7 million in research projects that focus specifically on incorporating energy storage into structural materials.

The two Vanderbilt researchers have reported their findings in a paper published today in the journal Nano Letters.  Their research was funded by National Science Foundation grants.  Breakthroughs in the field of energy storage are critical to the widespread adoption of renewable energy solutions.  



Tracey Smith About Tracey Smith
Tracey is an accountant and entrepreneur with a passion for nature. This passion is what spurred her interest in renewable energy, and the rest is history as they say. Tracey is a principal in Energy Think Group, the publisher of Solar Thermal Magazine and Tek-Think. She is also the principal at Women's Financial Help Desk. She spends her free time in the outdoors with her horses and dogs. She loves to travel.

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  • THIS is the kind of smart energy solutions and technology North America should be concentrating on instead of contaminating the world further with dirty fossil fuels.

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