Friday, July 05, 2013

New material holds big energy hope

To quote Neal Stephenson in Cryptonomicon: "As has always been the case, and as will continue to be the case for at least another half century, batteries suck."

Chemical batteries have always been a limiting factor in technological advancement. They are are heavy, expensive, slow to charge & discharge, sensitive to temperature, and have a very finite lifespan. This makes them impractical for storing excess power generated by our our infrastructure. This is why it's taken so long to develop commercially viable electrical cars. And it's why a modern mp3 player needs to be replaced on a regular basis, regardless of it's mechanical condition.

Unfortunately, there's never been much of an alternative available. But that may soon change.
From Phys Org
The new dielectric material outperforms current capacitors in many aspects, storing large amounts of energy and working reliably from -190°C to 180°C, and is cheaper to manufacture than current components.
"Our material performs significantly better than existing high dielectric constant materials so it has huge potential. With further development, the material could be used in '' which store enormous amounts of energy, removing current energy storage limitations and throwing the door wide open for innovation in the areas of renewable energy, , even space and defence technologies," said Associate Professor Liu.
The material could be particularly transformative for wind and solar power, which can cause problems when fed into the at low demand times.

I've long been interested in the potential for high quality ultra-capacitors as a replacement for chemical batteries. Theoretically, because they can charge very quickly, an electric vehicle would need only minutes to fully charge rather than hours, and quick discharge could deliver a serge of extra horsepower as needed. Without a finite number of recharge cycles, portable electronics could have their useful lifespans extended by years or even decades. And because they are less vulnerable to environmental conditions, large banks of such capacitors could be used to store electrical power during low demand hours.

Unfortunately, that's all been speculatory thus far because ultra-capacitors of that quality are basically vaporware. Higher energy density means we still get more bang for our buck out of conventional chemical batteries.

But advances are being made all the time, so the New Tech is coming. Better power storage & transport has the potential to be a game changer, so here's hoping it gets here soon. If only so I can get more time out of my laptop.

Stay Alive

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