New Capacitor Could Lead to Ultra-Efficient Electric Cars

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A team of US and Korean scientists have announced a major breakthrough in energy storage that could pave the way to a new generation of ultra-efficient electric cars, mobile phones and laptops.

The prototype capacitor, much more powerful than exisiting batteries, is capable of storing power at the same massive density as a supercapacitor (an incredible 10 billion tiny capacitors in every square centimetre), but releasing it as quickly as the fastest electrostatic capacitors.

Speaking about the invention, Gary Rubloff of the University of Maryland said, “Our primary target [for this technology] is as part of a hybrid battery-capacitor system for electric cars, but there are many [potential] small scale applications, [including] better electrical storage systems for cellphones or laptops.”

The microscopically small capacitors are created by anodising a layer of aluminium foil to make an evenly spaced array of nanopores across its surface. Three nested, concentric layers of material are then added to each pore, that function as in the same way as the conventional conductor-insulator-conductor set up of an electric capacitor. The interspersed conducting (titanium nitride) and insulating (aluminium oxide) layers are deposited using an ultra-precise process called atomic layer deposition.

As descibed in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the resulting capacitor can hold 2,500 joules, and discharge one megawatt of energy, per kilogram.

The next stage for the team is to improve the device’s performance further by experimenting with deeper pores, capable of containing bigger capacitors and storing even more energy.

Image Credit – oskay via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license

 

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.