Scientific Breakthrough Reveals Ground-Breaking Alternative to Battery Power Storage

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Scientific Breakthrough Reveals Ground-Breaking Alternative to Battery Power Storage

A Chinese supercapacitor electric bus at a charging point along its route.

  • Major scientific breakthrough research has discovered new materials offering an alternative to battery power and proven to be between 1,000-10,000 times more powerful than the existing battery alternative - a supercapacitor.
  • The new technology is believed to have the potential for electric cars to travel to similar distances as petrol cars without the need to stop for lengthy re-charging breaks of between 6-8 hours, and instead re-charge fully in the time it takes to fill a regular car with petrol.
  • The scientific findings by Augmented Optics Ltd and its wholly owned subsidiary Supercapacitor Materials Ltd with the University of Surrey and University of Bristol have produced a safer, faster charging, more efficient and greener alternative to battery power and supercapacitor abilities as we currently know them.

Ground-breaking research from the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics Ltd., in collaboration with the University of Bristol, has developed potentially transformational technology which could revolutionise appliances that have previously relied on battery power to work.

The development by Augmented Optics Ltd., could translate into very high energy density super-capacitors making it possible to recharge mobile phones, laptops or other mobile devices in just a few seconds.

The technology could have a seismic impact across transport, aerospace, and the energy generation industries, and household applications such as mobile phones, flat screen electronic devices, and biosensors. 

It could also revolutionise electric cars, allowing the possibility for them to recharge as quickly as it takes for a regular non-electric car to refuel with petrol – instead of the average 6-8 hours an electric car currently takes to recharge.  Imagine, instead of an electric car being limited to a drive from London to Brighton, the new technology could allow the electric car to travel from London to Edinburgh with just a few minutes needed to recharge on the way – less than refuelling with petrol.

Supercapacitor buses are already being used in China, but they have a very limited range, whereas this technology could allow them to travel a lot further between recharges.  Instead of recharging every 2-3 stops this technology could mean they only need to recharge every 20-30 stops and that will only take a few seconds.

Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, has previously stated his belief that supercapacitors are likely to be the technology for future electric air transportation.  The scientific advance reported by Supercapacitor Materials Ltd could make that vision a reality. 

The technology was adapted from the principles used to make soft contact lenses, which Dr Donald Highgate (of Augmented Optics, and an alumnus of the University of Surrey) developed following his postgraduate studies at Surrey 40 years ago.  Supercapacitors, an alternative power source to batteries, store energy using electrodes and electrolytes and both charge and deliver energy quickly, unlike conventional batteries which do so in a much slower, more sustained way.

Supercapacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles.  However, because of their poor energy density per kilogramme (approximately just one twentieth of existing battery technology), they have, until now, been unable to compete with conventional battery energy storage in many applications.

Dr Ian Hamerton, Reader in Polymers and Composite Materials from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol said:  “While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, these polymers (based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a 3-dimensional network) have many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics.  We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development.”

Jim Heathcote, Chief Executive of both Augmented Optics Ltd and Supercapacitor Materials Ltd, said: “The test results from the new polymers suggest that extremely high energy density supercapacitors could be constructed in the very near future.  We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra high energy density storage devices.”

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