New anode material set to boost lithium-ion battery capacity

    Believe it or not ! The following claim raises more questions than it asks. To transfer that much energy in seconds would require some pretty impressive connectors.

    UK technology firm Augmented Optics has revealed a new supercapacitor material it says can accept a charge in an electric vehicle as quickly as refueling a conventional car while threatening to render lithium-ion batteries obsolete. The new material intended to replace conventional batteries is a polymer based on soft contact-lens technology that may dramatically boost the performance of supercapacitors – lightweight electronic components that store and distribute high volumes of power.

    They are based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a three-dimensional network.

    The new material has been tested by researchers at Great Britain’s University of Surrey and University of Bristol, with their analysis estimating it to be between 1,000 and 10,000-times more effective than current supercapacitors.

    The technology was adapted from the principles used to make soft contact lenses, which Dr Donald Highgate (of Augmented Optics, and an alumnus of the University of Surrey) developed following his postgraduate studies at Surrey 40 years ago. Supercapacitors, an alternative power source to batteries, store energy using electrodes and electrolytes and both charge and deliver energy quickly, unlike conventional batteries which do so in a much slower, more sustained way. Supercapacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles. However, because of their poor energy density per kilogramme (approximately just one twentieth of existing battery technology), they have, until now, been unable to compete with conventional battery energy storage in many applications.

    Dr Brendan Howlin of the University of Surrey, explained: “There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments.”

    The ground-breaking research programme was conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey’s Department of Chemistry where the project was initiated by Dr Donald Highgate of Augmented Optics Ltd. The research team was co-led by the Principal Investigators Dr Ian Hamerton and Dr Brendan Howlin. Dr Hamerton continues to collaborate on the project in his new post at the University of Bristol, where the electrochemical testing to trial the research findings was carried out by fellow University of Bristol academic – David Fermin, Professor of Electrochemistry in the School of Chemistry.

    Dr. Donald Highgate, technical director at Augmented Optics, said the potential is high indeed.“If these are half as good as we think they are, and with more experience, they may take over entirely,” said Hughes. “Disruptive, yes — it would be a terrible shock to car manufacturers — but cars could be built on the same factory lines.”

    Dr Ian Hamerton, Reader in Polymers and Composite Materials from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol said: “While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, these *polymers have many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics. We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development.”

    Jim Heathcote, Chief Executive of both Augmented Optics Ltd and Supercapacitor Materials Ltd, said: “It is a privilege to work with the teams from the University of Surrey and the University of Bristol. The test results from the new polymers suggest that extremely high energy density supercapacitors could be constructed in the very new future. We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra high energy density storage devices.”

    Heathcote said that the group has been working in secret on the project until this point, having filed worldwide patents only last week.

    University of Bristol’s Dr. Ian Hamerton, a scientist on the project, said: “Although we didn’t initially look at the automotive industry, as the results came in, it became apparent the car industry could be one of the first ones to adopt this technology.”

    Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk previously said he would bet on supercapacitors over batteries to deliver a breakthrough for electric cars.

    Heathcote said the group is actively seeking partners in order to supply the polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra-high-energy density storage devices.

    British publication Auto Express reports that the team hopes to build a prototype electric car by 2017 that can be charged up to a 150-mile driving range in just a few seconds.


    New anode material set to boost lithium-ion battery capacity
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