Britain: Nanoscale Energy Storage Material Under Development
2010 02 17

By Boris Cambreleng | AFP

A nanoscale material developed in Britain could one day yield wafer-thin cellphones and light-weight, long-range electric cars powered by the roof, boot and doors, researchers have reported.

For now, the new technology -- a patented mix of carbon fibre and polymer resin that can charge and release electricity just like a regular battery -- has not gone beyond a successful laboratory experiment.

But if scaled-up, it could hold several advantages over existing energy sources for hybrid and electric cars, according to the scientists at Imperial College London who developed it.


Lithium-ion batteries used in the current generation of plug-in vehicles depend on dwindling supplies of lithium.

Lithium-ion batteries used in the current generation of plug-in vehicles are not only heavy, which adds to energy consumption, but also depend on dwindling supplies of the metal lithium, whose prices have risen steadily.

The new material -- while expensive to make -- is entirely synthetic, which means production would not be limited by availability of natural resources.

Another plus: conventional batteries need chemical reactions to generate juice, a process which causes them to degrade over time and gradually lose the capacity to hold a charge.

The carbon-polymer composite does not depend on chemistry, which not only means a longer life but a quicker charge as well.

Because the material is composed of elements measured in billionths of a metre, "you don't compromise the mechanical properties of the fibers," explained Emile Greenhalgh, an engineer at Imperial College and one of the inventors.

As hard a steel, it could in theory double as the body of the vehicle, cutting the weight by up to a third.

The Tesla Roadster, a luxury electric car made in the United States, for example, weighs about 1,200 kilos (2,650 pounds), more than a third of which is accounted for by batteries, which turn the scales at a hefty 450 kilos (990 pounds). The vehicle has a range of about 300 kilometers (185 miles) before a recharge is needed.

"With our material, we would ultimately lose that 450 kilos (990 pounds)," Greenhalgh said in an interview. "That car would be faster and travel further."

Vehicles with bodies crafted from the new material would likewise shed weight because it is four time lighter than steel, while remaining as strong and stiff.

"It is the sort of thing you find in tennis rackets or fishing rods -- a carbon fibre composite," Greenhalgh said.

"We aim to increase the surface area of the fibres as much as possible without degrading the mechanical properties. The larger the surface, the more electrical charge they can store."

The European Union (EU) announced last week that it would sink 3.4 million euros (4.6 million dollars) over three years into developing the new technology, with Imperial College coordinating a project spread over nine companies and institutes in Britain, Sweden, Germany and Greece.
Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has said it might build a demonstration panel into an existing electric car prototype.

Within three years, the researchers expect shave 15 percent off the weight of a car, and in five to six years, be able to integrate the material into the body.
But it will take a decade before the new material could fully replace existing batteries, Greenhalgh cautioned.

One of the question marks is cost.

Carbon fibre is a lot more expensive than steel, but mass production should bring down costs dramatically, he said.

Article from: AFP



Related Articles
Smart Materials
Material bends, stretches and conducts electricity?
New material may be step towards 3D invisibility cloak
'Recordable' Proteins As Next-generation Memory Storage Materials
'Invisible' Material Key to DARPA Dream Display
Graphene: The Next Semiconductor Material?
Nanobattery created to power RFID tags
Prototype Nokia phone recharges without wires


Latest News from our Front Page

Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
STAGED INFECTION: Has The Ebola ‘Outbreak’ Narrative Fallen Apart?
2014 10 22
Over the past month, the ‘pandemic’ propaganda surrounding the deadly Ebola virus seemed to reach vitriolic levels – raising serious questions about the validity of this current viral outbreak… On Monday of this week, it was reported that 48 people were released and cleared after a 21-day quarantine due to their contact with the now deceased Ebola-stricken patient Thomas Eric ...
More News »