Supercapacitors to the rescue

As Vanderbilt University create a structural supercapacitor energy storage device, we analyse developments in the supercapacitor industry.

As Vanderbilt University create a structural supercapacitor energy storage device, we analyse developments in the supercapacitor industry. Photo credit: Vanderbilt University

One of the most intriguing energy storage stories of last week was news of a solid-state supercapacitor so tough it could potentially be built into laptop casings, electric vehicle panels and even walls to become the basis of a structural energy storage device.The discovery, uncovered by a team from Vanderbilt University’s Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory, adds to near-daily reports of potential game-changing improvements to the technology.

So it seemed like a good time to take stock of supercapacitors (and ultracapacitors, but more of that later): what they are, what they can and can’t do in energy storage, how they can be improved, and what the future might hold for the sector.
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Solar looks to supercap storage

Maxwell Technologies has joined up with Soitec for a project to demonstrate the benefits of combining the former’s ultracapacitor energy storage with the latter’s concentrated solar technology, reports NewNet. The project, which has already started, is being bankrolled by a USD$1.39m contract from the California Energy Commission’s Research and Development programme, and will run until November 2015.

Ultracapacitors support port operations

Shanghai ISSON Power Quality has installed 126 125V Heavy Transportation Modules from Maxwell Technologies at the Yangshan Deep-Water Port, the developer and manufacturer of ultracapacitor-based energy storage products said this week. The modules are used in a power system that operates 26 ship-to-shore cranes for loading and unloading container ships within the national-grade super harbor.

The ultracapacitor installation, one of the largest in the world and the biggest in Asia, stabilises voltage and smoothes the fluctuation of the power output for the electric cranes, allowing for uninterrupted operations.

Maxwell launches high-voltage cold-climate capacitors

New high-voltage capacitors and voltage dividers that operate at temperatures as low as minus 60ºC have been launched by Maxwell Technologies’ Swiss subsidiary, it has been announced. Designed for use in freezing Arctic conditions, the new lines include capacitors for live tank, dead tank and gas-insulated switchgear circuit breakers, in addition to capacitive voltage dividers.