Since they appeared, batteries have always been bulky and heavy. Researchers have always tried to make them thinner, lighter, and at the same time to increase their capacity. Researchers from the Imperial College London are developing a prototype material that can store and release energy much faster than Li-Ion batteries.
The interesting fact is that the material resembles a fabric, and can be shaped into different objects, so maybe in the future mobile phone users won’t have to have a battery in their cellphone, just because its case will do the job.
The researchers received a €3.4 million budget for developing their idea during a three-year project, in which Volvo is also involved. The wonder-material is made of carbon fiber and a polymer resin. Unlike standard batteries, these won’t suffer from degradation for a long time, because there is no chemical process involved in charging/discharging them.
The lightweight material can be made strong enough to make car body parts, and could be recharged from your home’s regular wall socket.
Further developing the material, the researchers want to achieve much higher storage capacity by growing carbon nanotubes on the surface of the carbon fibers. They will even made a test by exchanging a car’s metal floor or wheel well with the carbon composite material, thus decreasing the car’s weight by up to 15 percent.
Project co-coordinator, Dr Emile Greenhalgh, from the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, says: “We are really excited about the potential of this new technology. We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof, its bonnet or even the door, thanks to our new composite material. Even the Sat Nav could be powered by its own casing. The future applications for this material don’t stop there – you might have a mobile phone 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 a longer time without recharging. We’re at the first stage of this project and there is a long way to go, but we think our composite material shows real promise.”
Inventing new materials for energy storage and decreasing the vehicles’ weight makes electric cars one step more viable when compared to their gasoline counterparts, and brings them closer to everybody who wants to drive them safely, cheaply and efficiently.