Researchers in the UK have reported a breakthrough in supercapacitor development with the potential to revolutionise the recharging cycle for battery operated devices. The development, by Augmented Optics, is based on polymers used to make soft contact lenses.
Very high energy density supercapacitors could make it possible to recharge mobile phones, laptops or other mobile devices in just a few seconds.
Supercapacitors, an alternative power source to batteries, store energy using electrodes and electrolytes, and have the ability to charge and deliver energy quickly over very large numbers of cycles. But due to their poor energy density per kilogram supercapacitor have had a hard time competing with conventional battery energy storage in many applications.
Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, has previously stated his belief that supercapacitors are likely to be the technology for future electric air transportation.
Scientific breakthrough reveals unprecedented alternative to battery power storage
Research from the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics, in collaboration with the University of Bristol, has developed potentially transformational technology which could revolutionise the capabilities of appliances that have previously relied on battery power to work.
This development by Augmented Optics, could translate into very high energy density supercapacitors making it possible to recharge your mobile phone, laptop or other mobile devices in just a few seconds.
The technology could have a seismic impact across a number of industries, including transport, aerospace, energy generation, and household applications such as mobile phones, flat screen electronic devices, and biosensors. It could also revolutionise electric cars, allowing the possibility for them to recharge as quickly as it takes for a regular non-electric car to refuel with petrol - a process that currently takes approximately six to eight hours to recharge. Imagine, instead of an electric car being limited to a drive from London to Brighton, the technology could allow the electric car to travel from London to Edinburgh without the need to recharge, but when it did recharge for this operation to take just a few minutes to perform.
Supercapacitor buses are already being used in China, but they have a very limited range whereas this technology could allow them to travel a lot further between recharges. Instead of recharging every two to three stops this technology could mean they only need to recharge every 20-30 stops and that will only take a few seconds.
Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, has previously stated his belief that supercapacitors are likely to be the technology for future electric air transportation. We believe that the present scientific advance could make that vision a reality.
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 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. 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.