Mobile phones that can be charged in minutes could soon be possible thanks to a radical new battery technology.
Called supercapacitors, the material, in the form of a wafer, can turn phone casings, car chassis and even walls into quick charging batteries.
Researchers at Vanderbilt say they have created the first working prototypes of the technology.
‘These devices demonstrate -for the first time as far as we can tell – that it is possible to create materials that can store and discharge significant amounts of electricity while they are subject to realistic static loads and dynamic forces, such as vibrations or impacts,’ said Cary Pint, one of the researchers.
The new device that Pint and Westover has developed is 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, supercaps can charge and discharge in minutes, instead of hours, and operate for millions of cycles, instead of thousands of cycles like batteries.
‘When you can integrate energy into the components used to build systems, it opens the door to a whole new world of technological possibilities.
‘All of a sudden, the ability to design technologies at the basis of health, entertainment, travel and social communication will not be limited by plugs and external power sources,’ Pint said.
Supercapacitors store ten times less energy than current lithium-ion batteries, but they can last a thousand times longer – meaning they can be built into walls and chassis.
‘Battery performance metrics change when you’re putting energy storage into heavy materials that are already needed for structural integrity,’ said Pint.
‘Supercapacitors store ten times less energy than current lithium-ion batteries, but they can last a thousand times longer.
‘That means they are better suited for structural applications.
‘It doesn’t make sense to develop materials to build a home, car chassis, or aerospace vehicle if you have to replace them every few years because they go dead.’
In a paper appearing online May 19 in the journal Nano Letters, Pint and Westover report that their new structural supercapacitor operates flawlessly in storing and releasing electrical charge while subject to stresses or pressures up to 44 psi and vibrational accelerations over 80 g (significantly greater than those acting on turbine blades in a jet engine).
Furthermore, the mechanical robustness of the device doesn’t compromise its energy storage capability.
‘In an unpackaged, structurally integrated state our supercapacitor can store more energy and operate at higher voltages than a packaged, off-the-shelf commercial supercapacitor, even under intense dynamic and static forces,’ Pint said.