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Posted on December 07, 2016 by Dr Peter Harrop

Dielectric capacitor to beat batteries?

Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2017-2027
The term supercapacitor means the same as ultracapacitor. It is traditionally limited to electrostatic devices that are based on an electrochemical double layer much thinner and of wider area than the dielectric that is the basis of all other capacitors. All capacitors have the advantage of not swelling and shrinking during cycling unlike batteries so they last longer and can even become structural components - load-bearing or smart skin doing two tasks for the weight, space and cost of one - almost. See the IDTechEx report, Structural Electronics 2016-2026 External Link. Supercapacitors combine the unrivalled power density of capacitors with energy storage approaching that of batteries, particularly when they are hybridised with pseudocapacitance (non- faradaic redox) and/or lithium-ion battery technology. For example, Nippon Chemicon promises 60Wh/kg soon and Kinetic Labs has claimed 100 Wh/kg in the laboratory. A third approach of putting a high permittivity dielectric such as unprecedentedly thin barium titanate in a wider area conductive porous medium, outgunning the traditional electrolytic capacitor, saw wild claims in past years but it came to nothing. They highjacked the name supercapacitor for that. The following announcement (embargoed until today) reveals little but it seems to be a similar approach based not on inorganics but on conductive and "high energy" polymers. Perhaps they can be flexible to fulfil the needs of wearables, including in healthcare. See the IDTechEx reports, Supercapacitor Technologies and Markets 2016-2026 External Link, Wearable Technology 2016-2026 External Link and Solid State and Polymer Batteries 2017-2027 External Link.
Electric Vehicle Energy Harvesting/Regeneration 20
Scientific breakthrough reveals unprecedented alternative to battery power storage
  • Major scientific breakthrough research has discovered new materials offering an alternative to battery power and proven to be between 1,000-10,000 times more powerful than the existing battery alternative - a supercapacitor.
  • The new technology is believed to have the potential for electric cars to travel to similar distances as petrol cars without the need to stop for lengthy re-charging breaks of between 6-8 hours, and instead re-charge fully in the time it takes to fill a regular car with petrol.
  • The scientific findings made by Augmented Optics Ltd and its wholly owned subsidiary Supercapacitor Materials Ltd with the University of Surrey and University of Bristol have produced a safer, faster charging, more efficient and greener alternative to battery power and supercapacitor abilities as we currently know them.
Ground-breaking research from the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics Ltd., 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 Ltd., could translate into very high energy density super-capacitors 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 6-8 hours to recharge. Imagine, instead of an electric car being limited to a drive from London to Brighton, the new 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.
Energy Harvesting: Off-Grid MicroW to MegaW 2017
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 2-3 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 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 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."
*the materials are based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a 3-dimensional network.
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."
About Augmented Optics Ltd/Supercapacitor Materials Ltd
Augmented Optics Ltd was incorporated 3 years ago to research and develop new electronically conducting polymers. The Company has commissioned research at the University of Surrey and an evaluation programme at Bristol University that has generated important new materials with potentially valuable commercial properties. It was founded by Dr Donald Highgate, Jim Heathcote and Nigel Spence. Dr Highgate and Jim Heathcote have worked together on advanced polymers and energy technology for 15 years. The company has been funded by a number of investors expert in the support and exploitation of new technologies.
In light of the recent discovery of 'high capacitance' polymers that may be ready for immediate commercialisation a wholly owned subsidiary Supercapacitor Materials Ltd was registered and has the website External Link.