M.I.T. Charged With Battery

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M.I.T. just announced a battery breakthrough. Successfully scaling down technology in development over the past 40 years, the crew at M.I.T has put together what they call “the first technologically significant and economically viable alternative to conventional batteries in more than 200 years.”

In less esoteric terms, that means soon consumers won’t need to worry about mobile phone or notebook computer battery lifespan. It will power up and stay powered up.

The energy storage device is called an ultracapacitor-a next generation super-battery that stores energy as an electrical field using atomic-level nanotube structures. Though ultracapacitors have been around since the 1960’s, and used in fuel-cell vehicles for extra acceleration, the nanotube-based devices are now small enough to be used in a range of electronic devices.

Developed by M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES), the ultracapacitors hold a 10-year-plus lifetieme, are indifferent to temperature change, highly immune to shock and vibration, and have high charging and discharging efficiency.

The key to developing an ultracapacitor small enough to be used in mobile electronics and outlast a standard lithium ion battery was the utilization of vertically aligned, single-wall carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes are one thirty-thousandth the diameter of a human hair and 100,000 times as long as they are wide.

By making them vertically aligned, developers were able to overcome problems with irregular shapes that reduced efficiency and increased surface area. The LEES ultracapacitor nanotubes are only several atomic diameters in width, and can be made into any of the sizes currently available, produced by conventional technology.

“This configuration has the potential to maintain and even improve the high performance characteristics of ultracapacitors while providing energy storage densities comparable to batteries,” said Joel E. Schindall, the Bernard Gordon Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and associate director of the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems

“Nanotube-enhanced ultracapacitors would combine the long life and high power characteristics of a commercial ultracapacitor with the higher energy storage density normally available only from a chemical battery.”

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