Never Run Out Of Power (Part 2) - A Full Car Battery in Five Minutes

5/9/2012 5:18:22 PM

The Device Itself is the Battery

Researchers at the Imperial College in London are also working on flexible battery prototypes. Their approach is fascinating: the casing of a smartphone, notebook or tablet itself becomes the battery. Electric vehicles would also be an exciting application field. "The car of the future would be able to receive its energy from the roof, the engine hood or the door, thanks to our composite material" explains project coordinator Dr. Emile Greenhalgh.

The researchers would also be able to increase the range of cars by about 130km in combination with conventional batteries. That would be double the performance of the latest electric cars which normally only go up to 150km in one charge. With the new technology, it would be possible to have smaller and simpler cars for city traffic, where one could easily afford to operate a normal battery for short distances.

Super condensors are the basis of the research project as they have a higher capacity compared to normal condensers; and in comparison to batteries, can emit more energy in short bursts, for example while accelerating a vehicle. Researchers are using carbon fiber as an electrode material. The electrolyte is a polymer gel and its isolator is glass fiber. The major advantage is that battery behaves like normal carbon and can be used in the exact same way. As of now there are already a couple of prototypes, but the researchers cannot predict when the material will be released in the market.

A Full Car Battery in Five Minutes


Description: Description: Description: The Redox Flow battery

For vehicles, an interesting new type of battery called Redox Flow is being researched in Pfinztal at the Fraunhof Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT). The idea is to be able to charge not only small batteries but any large ones just as quickly. This is not possible with conventional batteries: if you want to charge big batteries in a short time, the charging station requires a lot of energy. On the other hand, the battery would overheat without a cooling system.

The Redox Flow battery is a type of mixture of a fuel cell and an accumulator. A car designed using this technology can be charged in 5 to 10 minutes, but with an energy density that is lower than that of a lithium ion battery. The trick to charge quickly lies in the fluid electrolytes that are stored in two tanks. A pump rinses the electrolyte in the converter cell, and ions in both liquids are exchanged through the membrane. If the electrolyte does not generate any more energy, the tanks can be simply by evacuated and refilled eye. A human hair, with its 100,000 nanometer width, is gigantic in comparison.

The anode of this battery is made from nickel and tin and the cathode from polyanilin. A gel-type polyethylene oxide (PEO) is used as a conductor that also insulates nano wires. Aluminum and copper are put in wires to close the current circulation. At the moment, researchers are working on the stability of the battery because even the latest versions diminish in energy capacity after roughly 20 charging cycles.

Transparent Batteries for New Devices

Batteries are not only performing better, but are also getting smaller and more flexible. Researchers have been doing work even on their visual appearance. As a rule, today's ugly batteries disappear somewhere inside the chasses of devices, which is fine because the devices are not transparent. However prototypes of transparent displays are already being researched and researchers are also working on transparent tablets that can curl up like a newspaper. A research team of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University in California has manufactured the first transparent lithium ion battery, so that the user does not have to stare at a battery block. As none of the existing materials can be made transparent nor are transparent alternatives available, the designers are trying to reinvent the battery and make its elements smaller. For the electrodes, a latticed framework was developed for which every rod is only 35 micrometers long "Something smaller than 50 micrometers is not visible to the naked eye" explains researcher Yuan Yung. The base material is PDMS (Polydimethylsiloxane), a silicone that is used among other things in cosmetic products. According to the researchers, the battery should be close to 60 percent transparent and very flexible, even when layers are placed over one another to increase the capacity. This is necessary because at the moment, the concept battery has only half the power of a lithium ion battery. Although the manufacturing process is complicated, the costs should not be much higher than that of today's lithium ion batteries.

Wi-Fi Upgrades Prolong Battery Life


Description: Battery Life

Researchers are not only working on batteries but also on energy-efficient technologies. One of the large energy consumers in mobile devices is Wi-Fi, for which Duke University in Durham, USA has found a solution which could as much as double a device's battery capacity. Especially in networks with many users, the connection consumes a lot of energy as the devices compete with each other for data transfer, and that too for prolonged periods. "SleepWell" technology developed at the university helps manage the devices' communications not only with the router but also amongst each other. The clients observe whether or not another device is loading data: if that is the case, the client takes a break. The data is distributed in small packets so that the transfer capacity splits up equally. The process helps only in networks which are used frequently—someone who does not use Wi-Fi much does not benefit from it.

As "SleepWell" does not require any change in Wi-Fi standards, the technology can be integrated in all devices immediately via a simple firmware upgrade. The developers hope to demonstrate these capabilities to device manufacturers as soon as the test phase is completed.

Longer Performance Through Normal Usage

A larger application field offers a technology is one which aims to help the battery charge when keys on the keyboaii of a notebook or the touch screen of a tablet are pressed. The faster and more frequently the user taps at his device, the faster the battery could charge. What sounds like a paradox should soon become a reality thanks to a pressure-sensitive sheet. The idea is that when a user types a text on his/her notebook, the released kinetic energy while typing should generate small amounts of electricity for the battery. This piezoelectric effect develops when crystals like quartz are formed —at least in theory. The practical implementation in of such a technique is not easy at all. Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Australia have succeeded in measuring the pressure and voltage arising out of normal typing activity in field of 10 to 100 nanometers. For comparison, a blood corpuscle is about 8,400 nanometers.

The electricity produced by pressing keys could increase the life of a charged battery by up to 10 percent. The researchers want to accommodate such sheets in mobile devices but also in medical applications. Pacemakers, for example, could be charged solely by harnessing the patient's blood pressure.

Taste of the Future


Description: Lithium Ion Batteries

Industry veterans and researchers are working intensively on solutions to the battery problem. This is, after all, the weakest and oldest technology inside many of our gadgets. Everything is shrinking today, but batteries are in fact becoming disproportionate large. When even a single one of these techniques it is good for mass production and adoption, mobile technology will be much more free and easy—without the annoying need to search for another power point!

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