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Power Hardware

Step Toward Liberating Electronic Devices From Their Power Cords 130

Science_afficionado (932920) writes "A new type of supercapacitor that can hold a charge when it takes a lickin' has been developed by engineers at Vanderbilt University. It is the first 'multi-functional' energy storage device that can operate while subject to realistic static and dynamic loads — advancing the day when everything from cell phones to electric vehicles will no longer need separate batteries. These devices could make it possible to design electrical devices that are not limited by plugs and external power sources."
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Step Toward Liberating Electronic Devices From Their Power Cords

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  • by Lumpio- ( 986581 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:03AM (#47055329)
    As far as I understand, in practice using a supercap isn't much different from using a battery. The energy density might be different but it's not like they magically create energy from thin air. They still need to be charged. Or are we talking energy densities that would last for the entire life of a device here?
  • Bullshit. Where exactly do they plan to get the power to charge those supercaps? From thin air?

  • Re:I hate it when; (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:26AM (#47055497)

    Yeah, but English is all about context. The statement "Supercapacitors store ten times less energy than current lithium-ion batteries, but they can last a thousand times longer," is unambiguous in this context because we know that the energy storage is not negative. Language would be really boring if everyone spoke as if they were programming a computer. In fact, we have precise language in various fields, and it generally sucks to read. Imagine if everything were written in legalese!

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:39AM (#47055603)

    The summary (and the article, to an extent) is bad; this is a supercapacitor that also serves as a structural part, so all sorts of random things can be turned into (weak) batteries.

    They're envisioning a world where buildings, cars, and all sorts of things could be turned into giant capacitors, and you could just pump energy in somewhere and then draw it out wherever you like using some kind of short-range wireless transfer.

    The idea is a bit half-baked, but I support any science that makes our world more like Star Trek, even if it takes the form of mundane objects randomly exploding when there is a power surge.

  • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:41AM (#47055629) Journal

    TFS is misleading.

    One of the great advantages of this new tech is the super capacitor can be charged and discharged for millions of cycles, versus thousands of cycles for existing battery technology.

    Actually, that's not really the point of the article, either. Large numbers of charge-discharge cycles are a feature of pretty much any supercapacitor, not just these ones. They're arguing that these new supercapacitors have sufficient mechanical strength and robustness that that could be used as structural, load-bearing components in some applications. In other words, you don't have to put a box around them; they can be an integral part of the frame or case of your device. The battery (or capacitor) doesn't have to be a separate, discrete, armored lump inside the case.

    In practice, as long as the energy storage density of these things is still just a tenth that of rechargeable lithium ion batteries, they're going to have problems in mobile applications. Near-indestructible material and near-instantaneous charging are both good things. But I'm not really "liberated from my power cord" if I have to top up the capacitor every couple of hours, or if my new battery-less iPhone weighs a couple of pounds with its giant supercapacitor frame.

  • Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:57AM (#47056259)

    Batteries have gone through multiple generations of technology in the last two decades. Solar panels are now so cheap that the physical installation costs are the biggest part of installed costs. Solid-state storage is increasingly the norm. OLEDs are now in TVs, 77" diag. 4k-ish, WRGB. e-Paper readers cost tens of dollars and are seen as outdated tech. Smartphones cost tens of dollars. 4G phones. Gb/s Wi-Fi. Etc etc.

    How much fucking progress do you need?

    (When Li-Ion was introduced in '91, it stored less than 90 Wh/kg, now it's over 200 Wh/kg. The price was over $3/Wh, and is now less than 30c/Wh. []. And there's no reason to suspect it will stop, we're still pushing Li-polymer capacity. With LiS, LiMetal, and ZnAir all in the early commercialisation stage, and graphite-everything in the lab stage.)

    ((Solar panels have doubled in capacity/m^2 every ten years, and halved in price/m^2. Every doubling of global production cuts the price by 1/5th. []. And there's no reason to suggest the trend will stop.))

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger