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NASA Power Science Technology

Researchers Develop Super Batteries From Aerogel 182

Posted by samzenpus
from the out-of-thick-air dept.
greenerd writes "Researchers from the University of Central Florida may have found the most efficient (and most bizarre) battery material yet – 'frozen smoke', also known as Aerogel. One of the world's lightest solids, aerogel contains multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) which each one several thousands thinner than human hair. The researchers, Associate Professor Lei Zhai and Postdoctoral Associate Jianhua Zou, believe that this material could soon become the best energy storage material for capacitors and batteries."
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Researchers Develop Super Batteries From Aerogel

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  • New? What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 05, 2011 @10:33PM (#35393770)

    I have been playing with Aerogel capacitors for many years.

    I have a couple of 2.5V 50F units sitting on my desk right now. They are about the size of an AA battery. Pretty cool. They don't have quite the energy density of an alkaline battery but you can charge and discharge them much faster. Think of charging a rechargeable AA cell in about 30 seconds.

    Aerogel is not new. Their main weakness is their fragility. If you knock them around too much they break so for that reason they don't make great batteries for a lot of applications.

  • by asm2750 (1124425) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @10:38PM (#35393816)
    From the TFA it looks like they did not make a working device yet. Still, sounds like an interesting application for aerogel. Hopefully it is safer, cheaper, and easier to make than lithium technology
  • Numbers please... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ls671 (1122017) * on Saturday March 05, 2011 @11:16PM (#35394024) Homepage

    As it is often the case with breaking news in battery related articles, I didn't find any numbers about the efficiency of this system in TFA. I would like to see a amazing break through in electricity storage but we have a long way to go still to match gasoline, so expect transportation prices to raise a lot as oil is slowly running out.

    Energy density:
    gasoline: 46.4 MJ/kg
    Lead Acid Battery: 0.14 MJ/kg

    http://wiki.xtronics.com/index.php/Energy_density [xtronics.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density [wikipedia.org]

    Since accelerating the mass of the batteries raises the cost even further, batteries are even less efficient for urban transportation when you accelerate and decelerate a lot. We would need to bring back trolleys or another way not to have to transport the energy source for our cars to have something efficient.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolleybus [wikipedia.org]

  • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @11:25PM (#35394058)

    First of all aerogels are a whole class of materials. They aren't 'made from carbon nanotubes'. Obviously the aerogel they are working with contains carbon nanotubes, but aerogels can be made from MANY materials. You can make them from gelatin for that matter, though silica is the most common material (and what the highly insulating materials are generally based on).

    In terms of battery/capacitor applications those are pure speculation. Add to the long list of possible ultra-capacitor and/or super-battery concepts. You can hardly walk into a materials lab nowadays without bumping into some guy that has an idea for a super-battery made from X.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @11:35PM (#35394096) Homepage Journal

    Wood and glass are terrible insulators [...]

    That is bullshit. Both are excellent insulators.
    Take one in the hand and put the other end into fire. (Either wood or glass, does not matter), your hand stays cold.
    A problem are windows because they are difficult to get tight and they lose heat by radiation, but that has nothing to do with insulation. You can fix that problem by using multiple sheets of glass separated by air and different kinds of glass.

    angel'o'sphere

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @12:32AM (#35394302)

    Total rubbish. Glass only has an R value of 0.14 and softwoods about 1.4. Polyurethane foam is around 7-8.

  • by Rei (128717) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @02:03AM (#35394684) Homepage

    There's also "spinning standby", where you keep the boilers hot and the generator turning over but not producing power so that you can produce power on short notice. The grid has to be able to respond quickly, since there's not exactly a ton of capacitance in the wires to buffer demand fluctuations.

    That's one of the things that I find so amusing about the people who rail against wind and solar power: "You'll ruin the grid by making production unstable!" Um, hello, *demand* is already unstable, which is effectively the same thing; this is nothing new. You do increase the need for peaking capacity, but this is overall an issue already very familiar to grid operators.

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