New material claimed to store more energy and cost less money than batteries
By Ben Coxworth
September 29, 2011
Researchers from the National University of Singapore's Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) have created what they claim is the world's first energy-storage membrane. Not only is the material soft and foldable, but it doesn't incorporate liquid electrolytes that can spill out if it's damaged, it's more cost-effective than capacitors or traditional batteries, and it's reportedly capable of storing more energy.
The membrane is made from a polystyrene-based polymer, which is sandwiched between two metal plates. When charged by those plates, it can store the energy at a rate of 0.2 farads per square centimeter - standard capacitors, by contrast, can typically only manage an upper limit of 1 microfarad per square centimeter.
Due in part to the membrane's low fabrication costs, the cost of storing energy in it reportedly works out to 72 cents US per farad. According to the researchers, the cost for standard liquid electrolyte-based batteries is more like US$7 per farad. This in turn translates to an energy cost of 2.5 watt-hours per US dollar for lithium-ion batteries, whereas the membrane comes in at 10-20 watt-hours per dollar.
Details on how the material works, along with data on factors such as charging/discharging times and longevity have not yet been released. Principle investigator Dr. Xie Xian Ning, however, has stated "The performance of the membrane surpasses those of rechargeable batteries, such as lithium ion and lead-acid batteries, and supercapacitors."
The NUSNNI team is now looking into opportunities for commercializing the technology.