February 14, 2006 Almost everything we use requires electrical storage via a battery - computers, cell phones, cars, personal entertainment devices and much more – and as compelling functionality has increased in the digital age, so too has our reliance on the traditional battery which has changed little since it was developed by Alessandro Volta in 1800. Now, work at MIT's Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES) holds the promise of the first technologically significant and economically viable alternative to conventional batteries in more than 200 years. Using nanotube structures, the LEES invention promises a significant increase on the storage capacity of existing commercial ultracapacitors by storing electrical fields at an atomic level. The new LEES ultracapacitors could replace the conventional battery in everything from the smallest MP3 players through to electric automobiles and beyond, yielding batteries with a lifetime equivalent to the product they power and recharging times inside a minute. Most significantly, they promise a much smaller and lighter “battery”, and will be an enabling technology for many new concepts such as electric bicycles with the “burst” peak power of a motorcycle, or electrical trams with the capacity of a train but without the infrastructure. In automotive terms, they raise the possibility of an integrated starter/generator and the capability of ultra-efficient regenerative braking systems. The work was presented at the recent 15th International Seminar on Double Layer Capacitors and Hybrid Energy Storage Devices and the LEES “batteries” could reach market within five years. A potentially disruptive technology!
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