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Building with Batteries

low battery

Wires, we hate them. It’s okay you can say it, wires are… ugly. I hate throwing out the big “u” word like that, but facts are facts. So what if I told you, soon you might be finding power in unusual places. In fact, your whole home could be used to store energy.

This all thanks to a new type of supercapacitor that can take a licking and keep on ticking [I’ve always wanted to say that]. A supercapacitor so durable, it could be made into laptop casing, cars, buildings, just about anything. This new tech comes out of the [incredible] Vanderbilt Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory. 

“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 Pint. “Andrew has managed to make our dream of structural energy storage materials into a reality.”

I have to admit, the title is a little misleading. Supercapacitors are [technically] not batteries. The storage capacity for them is, in fact, far lower than that of your average battery, about 10 times lower. The difference is that these supercapacitors can not only bear weight, they can be used through millions of cycles compared to thousands of cycles like batteries. Useful for long term structures like buildings for example.

In a paper appearing online May 19 in the journal Nano Letters, the team 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 [to give you an idea, that is significantly greater than the force acting on turbine blades in a jet engine].

The supercapacitors consist of electrodes made from silicon that have been chemically treated so they have nanoscale pores on their inner surfaces and then they are coated with a protective ultrathin graphene-like layer of carbon. Sandwiched between the two electrodes is a polymer film that acts as a reservoir of charged ions [similar to the role of electrolyte paste in a battery]. When the electrodes are pressed together, the polymer oozes into the tiny pores so when it cools and solidifies, it forms an extremely strong mechanical bond.

“The biggest problem with designing load-bearing supercaps is preventing them from delaminating,” said Westover. “Combining nanoporous material with the polymer electrolyte bonds the layers together tighter than superglue.”

This is a perfect solution for our energy storage problems that we are facing, a major complaint about renewable energy [or any form of energy really] is storage. This would be not only a solution to the problem, it could be combine with other technologies that are coming forward like the solar roadways. Now, that would definitely be an amazing combination.

So you’re an electrical engineer? You might want the full article, which you can find —here!

Westover A.S., Tian J.W., Bernath S., Oakes L., Edwards R., Shabab F.N., Chatterjee S., Anilkumar A.V. & Pint C.L. (2014). A Multifunctional Load-Bearing Solid-State Supercapacitor., Nano letters, PMID:

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