Rebirth of Battery Power
The batteries we depend on to power our electronic lives may be on their way to becoming a thing of the past. A new plastic development could open doors of creativity for product designers and do away with the major design constraint batteries pose.
As of yet, batteries are bulky, chemically dependent, and have a decidedly less than desirable life span. British developers, however, have created a thin plastic sheet that can store and release energy more efficiently than batteries currently on the market. The plastic development is as thin as a wafer and spans a whopping 5x5 inches approximately. A layer of glass fiber rests sandwiched between two layers of carbon fiber, one conducting a positive charge, and the other conducting a negative charge. According to Dr. Emile Greenhalgh from Imperial College London's Department of Aeronautics reports, the wafer power pack is not a battery at all, rather it is a supercapacitor- an extremely fast charging energy storage unit. The prototype his team has produced charges in five seconds from a normal power supply and can power an LED for 20 minutes.
Other possibilities for the supercapacitator Dr. Greenhalgh is exploring are powering laptops, mobile devices and even vehicles. Currently involved in a £3 million project with Volvo to use the product in hybrid vehicles, Dr. Greenhalgh said, "'We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof or even the door, thanks to our material. The applications for this material don't stop there - you might have a mobile that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for longer. The material charges and discharges electricity quicker than a conventional battery, and does not use chemical processes - giving it a longer lifespan."
What if you had a computer screen that you could fold up like a piece of paper and put in your pocket? The technology could lead to such developments. Additionally, researchers are looking into the possibility of putting the power packs on clothing to generate and store power that could then produce heat for the wearer when necessary. Dr. Greenhalgh is optimistic that within ten years the development could replace batteries altogether.Tweet