Nanotechnology in energy storage

Graphene and nanotechnology in energy storage offer exciting prospects, promising dramatic increases in capacity with reductions in size, weight and cost. Photo credit: The Graphene Flagship

Graphene and nanotechnology in energy storage promise dramatic increases in capacity with reductions in size, weight and cost. Photo credit: The Graphene Flagship

Nanotechnology has been a theme of futurist fiction for decades now. And its products are finally coming out of the lab to find a role in sunscreen, medical plasters and self-cleaning glass, to name a few applications. Meanwhile, although still very much at the development phase and some way from commercialisation, nanotechnology in energy storage is an exciting prospect for the sector, promising dramatic increases in capacity with reductions in size, weight and cost.

It could also lead to novel alternatives to conventional batteries, such as the recently reported energy-storing electrical wire that inventors claim may one day be woven into clothing to supply electricity for our portable gadgets.
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Vanadium & graphene nanotech for fast charging batteries

Hybrid ribbons of vanadium and graphene thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper could be the basis for a superior cathode for lithium-ion batteries, say researchers at Rice University.

Hydrothermal processing of vanadium pentoxide and graphene oxide creates graphene-coated ribbons of crystalline vanadium oxide, which show great potential as ultrafast charging and discharging electrodes for lithium-ion batteries, according to a report in phys.org.

Nanotechnologists produce micro-supercapacitor

Researchers at Rice University in the US have made a new hybrid micro-supercapacitor from graphene and carbon nanotube ‘carpets’, reports nantechweb.org. These structures have electrochemical properties that could be just the thing for running portable electronics and renewable power applications, longer. With an energy density of 2.42 mWh/cm3 in an ionic liquid, the device carries two times the energy of conventional aluminum electrolytic capacitors of the same volume.

“Eggshell” nanostructures break battery record

A five-fold improvement in the performance of lithium-ion batteries has been made possible thanks to a cathode composed of tiny sulfur nuggets surrounded by a hard shell of porous titanium-oxide, like an egg yolk in a tiny eggshell.

The actual mechanics of the structures created by Stanford University associate professor Yi Cui and his team are far too involved for our newsletter, but full details can be found in this report from CleanTechnica.

Britain bets on graphene

Discovered by scientists at Manchester University in 2005, graphene has a wealth of potential applications related to both renewables and energy storage – as well as flexible electronics and opto-electronics, and much more.

It is also having a lot of UK government money thrown at it, according to the BBC. The UKP 21.5 million promised by British finance minister George Osborne will come from an earlier funding allocation, and – it is hoped – will be matched by another UKP 14 million from industry and universities.

Amongst the commercial partners will be  Nokia, BAE Systems, Procter & Gamble, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Dyson, Sharp and Philips Research.

New solar storage possibilities from MIT

Scientists at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have produced modified carbon nanotubes that can store solar energy indefinitely after being charged up by sunlight, says the university.

Although nano materials that store sunlight in chemical bonds have been produced before, researchers on this project say that the new material, which is made using carbon nanotubes in combination with a compound called azobenzene, has a much higher energy density than earlier solutions. In fact the energy density of this solutions is comparable to that of lithium-ion batteries.

Nanoflowers let Li-ion batteries bloom

North Carolina State University researchers have created flower-like structures out of germanium sulfide (a semiconductor material) that have extremely thin petals with an enormous surface area, which could dramatically boost the capacity of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

The “petals” are 20 to 30 nanometers thick, up to 100 micrometers long and are created by vaporising germanium sulfide (GeS) powder in a furnace, blowing it to a cooler area where it solidifies into sheets, then repeating the process to build up the final “flower”.

One of many nanotechnology projects aimed at improving the capacity of Li-ion technology, such as nanocarbon “brushes” and “foams”, this technique is both cheap and non-toxic, says the University.

1MW nano-tech battery in Kansas City

Described as an “advanced lithium polymer with nano” cell by its manufacturer, Exergonix Incorporated, a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) has been installed in Kansas City, USA, utility KCP&L’s SmartGrid Demonstration Area, which is part of a MRIGlobal-run laboratory site.

There, MRIGlobal experts will examine environmental and economic performance as well as the technical operations, durability and reliability of the system, says the company. The system itself is described as integrating a higher-energy density battery with advanced electronic controls.