The Death Of The Battery Is Upon Us: Plastic Supercapacitor Could Recharge Gizmos

The Death Of The Battery Is Upon Us: Plastic Supercapacitor Could Recharge Gizmos

Battery life has been a huge issue around these parts. Particularly when it comes to notebooks, it always feels like manufacturers are giving us rough life estimates that are nowhere near accurate when compared to real-world figures. From R/C cars to notebooks to cars, there's no question that batteries are necessary in the world of technology, but they're also amongst the most annoying aspects due to their inability to stay charged for a remarkably long time and their tendency to degrade over time. Not to mention they're bad for the planet, expensive and unreliable.

Batteries may be the perfect example of a love/hate relationship, but that whole "hate" aspect could be vanishing in the future. Imperial College in London has a team of researchers that are making waves now thanks to their latest development. The project seems tightly connected with Volvo, but the implications are far more amazing than just helping a hybrid rely less on conventional heavy battery packs. The new invention isn't actually a "battery." Instead, it's a supercapacitor. Basically, this composite (sort of like a plastic) could be used to store and send out energy much in the same way as a battery, but since it's plastic, the actual casings of devices could be the battery itself.

Imagine a fender being used to help power a hybrid vehicle. Or maybe the casing of your next iPod could take the place of the bulky battery in the back. Or maybe your next ultraportable or netbook could use the enclosure itself as the battery rather than that bulky cell in the rear. It's definitely a game-changing concept, and amazingly, it's not really new. Supercapacitors have been around in science labs for years, but no one has really taken the initiative to mold and shape the idea into one that could be used to power our next generation of electronics.



The college is hoping to one day see mobile phones as thin as credit cards thanks to the ability to run without a conventional battery, and this same technology could be used to make hybrid cars lighter and more fuel efficient, not to mention cutting back the use of harmful battery materials. The project co-ordinator, Dr Emile Greenhalgh, from the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, says:

“We are really excited about the potential of this new technology. We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof, its bonnet or even the door, thanks to our new composite material. Even the Sat Nav could be powered by its own casing. The future applications for this material don’t stop there – you might have a mobile phone that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for a longer time without recharging. We’re at the first stage of this project and there is a long way to go, but we think our composite material shows real promise.”

At this point, it's still not clear when this technology would be able to used in typical consumer electronics. It's obviously far too conceptual and expensive to simply implement now, and lots of testing will probably have to be done to see if this could actually replace batteries. Assuming all that works out, we'd be delighted to see the death of the battery. We've been dealing with degrading battery cells for far too long, and it's about time that we could wake up on Christmas morning and not have it ruined by the phrase "Oh! I forgot the batteries!" Hopefully that fateful day is now sooner (much sooner) than it was before this innovation.


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Like every year there's a 'battery killer' but I haven't seen anything come of it.

Kind of like all those World of Warcraft killers, really.

It'd be great, but it just hasn't gone anywhere before.

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Yeah there are always a lot of thing going on in the battery world. I wish they would get something released though. From my perspective we are still using batteries from 30 years ago in one aspect, and the rechargeable battery as well as battery constitution itself has not gone much of anywhere really in decades. They have gotten a little cheaper (rechargeable) , but other than that I have not seen much change in their market.

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The key feature of a battery or a capacitor is that it stores energy.

Any press release or article about a battery (or battery replacement) technology that does not discuss energy density (Joules/liter or Joules/kg) is just hot air.

Capacitors have been far behind batteries in energy density. Not even close. If this new technology can compete with Li-ion batteries for energy density, then they should give some numbers.

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jwilliams, I think the main attraction here is that the building components of an electronic device would be a battery in itself. Even if it doesn't replace Li-ion batteries, it could be a supplement.

My question is if you could get a nasty shock if you touched the bumper of your car.

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Even if you build the entire car out of the stuff, it is not going to do you much good if the energy density is less than 1% of a decent battery. And my guess is that it is even less, which is why they are not talking about it.

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Still, advancement is often taken in slow steps, putting several disparate technologies together. Just as NAND memory has improved dramatically over the past three years, it's possible that this will have a breakthrough-- or will be used by some other technology, Go London Tech! (Or whatever you're calling yourselves.)

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Jwilliams is right and the author needs to distinguish between batteries and supercapacitors. Supercaps have high power density but low energy density. Batteries are essentially the opposite having high energy density. A future car would likely use both. Fast charging supercaps could be charged with energy from the breaking of the car and they could then dump that into the batteries, which can store a much larger amount of charge (energy).

There is also another major error in this article. The discussion of it being made of plastic and that the bumper could store charge sounds like a load of rubbish. The author doesn't understand "HOW" a supercapacitor works. It requires two electrodes and an electrolyte (either water-based or for higher voltages, organic solvent). The "plastic" they speak of is likely to be one (or both) of the electrodes and this must be filled with the liquid electrolyte. All of this must then be encased in a shell.... just like a battery! The only way around this would be a solid-state electrolyte, which is not likely for this application. It is possible the author was misled by the scientists PR team, which feel obligated to exaggerate the possible uses of their technology.

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It's all good until someone inadvertently scratches the car with their key opening the door and discharges the capacitor through themselves and flies 50 feet to be found as a crispy fried fritter.

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I LOVE hearing about progress with batteries. Seems to be a wonderful step up from the urine powered battery. Stick out tongue

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/08/0818_050818_urinebattery.html

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LMFAO. im sure not going to be using that battery... what if it leaks? :)

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