Way back in 2011, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk was caught on tape predicting that powerful capacitors, not batteries, would be the future energy storage mode of choice for electric vehicles. That future is still a long way off, but a research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a new type of high-performance capacitor that could be used to complement, if not replace, electric vehicle batteries.
What Is This Capacitor?
For those of you new to the topic, a capacitor is an energy storage device like a battery, but it behaves differently.
Batteries charge slowly, while capacitors charge up rapidly. That makes them alluring as candidates for electric vehicles, except that they also discharge very quickly, which limits their application to providing quick bursts.
Capacitors are already being used in that capacity for electric vehicles, for example in regenerative braking systems (same for trains). Specialty markets, such as auto racing, are also eyeing capacitor technology as a performance enhancer.
Capacitors are also alluring for EV energy storage because they dont need to be replaced before the rest of the vehicle wears out. Thats an improvement over conventional battery technology, at least for folks who like to keep the same vehicle as long as possible.
In the context of finite resources, that longer lifespan could provide capacitors with another important edge over batteries eventually (unless Mr. Musk has changed his mind).
The Georgia Tech Dielectric Capacitor
The Georgia Tech research team has come up with a new material for dielectric capacitors.
According to the team, the challenge is to find a dielectric material that can maximize permittivity, breakdown strength, energy density and energy extraction efficiency.
So far the work is at lab scale, but the team is confident that the new material will outperform typical electrolytic capacitors in real life, as well as rivaling certain types of batteries.
The team fabricated the new material using a sol-gel process, which starts with a solution of solid nanoparticles. The tiny particles then self-assemble throughout the liquid to form a gel.
Source: Clean Technica
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