battery batteries

High-density supercapacitor could replace batteries and charge in seconds

High-density supercapacitors could offer an alternative to batteries thanks to newly discovered materials that could allow the technology to proliferate commercially.

Supercapacitors have a number of advantages over traditional batteries such as the ability to recharge your mobile phone, laptop or other mobile devices in just a few seconds.

This ability could revolutionise electric cars, allowing them to recharge as quickly as it takes for a regular non-electric car to refuel with petrol, a process that currently takes approximately 6-8 hours to recharge.

Capacities could also be expanded so that an electric car could travel all the way from London to Edinburgh without the need to recharge.

The new materials were developed by the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics., in collaboration with the University of Bristol and use similar principles to those used to make soft contact lenses.

They are based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a three-dimensional network.

Supercapacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles. 

However, because of their poor energy density per kilogramme (approximately just one twentieth of existing battery technology), they have been unable to compete with conventional battery energy storage in many applications.

While supercapacitor buses are already being used in China, they have a very limited range, typically needing to recharge every 2-3 stops. This technology could mean they only need to recharge every 20-30 stops in a process that will take just a few seconds.

Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, has previously said that supercapacitors are likely to be the technology for future electric air transportation.

Dr Brendan Howlin of the University of Surrey explained: “There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra-capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments.”

The University of Bristol’s Dr Ian Hamerton said: “While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, these polymers have many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics.  We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development.”

Jim Heathcote, Chief Executive of Augmented Optics said: “The test results from the new polymers suggest that extremely high energy density supercapacitors could be constructed in the very new future.  We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra-high energy density storage devices.”

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