A team of engineers and researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is working to combine the technology behind superconductors and energy-efficient batteries to create a design that, if fully realized, may change the way that we store and use electricity.
According to a press release from the college, the new technology is known as an electrochemical capacitor (EC). Using graphene, a from of carbon often employed in nano-engineering, the scientists were able to make a compact disc-sized EC that reportedly is capable of transferring energy efficiently while also maintaining its integrity and shape. Richard Kaner, who led the group of professors and graduate students, stated that the design exceeds the storage potential of any batteries created thus far.
"Our study demonstrates that our new graphene-based super capacitors store as much charge as conventional batteries, but can be charged and discharged a hundred to a thousand times faster," Kaner said in a statement.
The engineering professor went on to explain the the press release that up until now, ECs have been too difficult to manufacture efficiently. However, the device created by the UCLA team appears to be free from this issues thanks to a novel process that causes the graphene to shift when it receives a charge, thereby allowing the energy to transfer without being interrupted.
Like other experimental technologies we've covered on the LifeIsGreen.com blog, this work is probably years away from reaching any kind of commercial-scale operation. However, ECs could one day be used for next-generation batteries connected to renewable energy networks. Similarly, these kinds of conductors might enable automakers to create electric cars and other types of vehicles that rely on costly batteries to operate.