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Researchers Develop Super Batteries From Aerogel

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the out-of-thick-air dept.

NASA 182

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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182 comments

Wish they made it cheap (5, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393716)

For insulation as well. Several companies make it, but hard to get a hold of a decent size of it at anywhere near an economical price.

Hopefully this spurns added demand to find a cheap way to produce it en masse.

its the holy grail (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393738)

demand is already ASTRONOMICAL

Re:its the holy grail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393822)

mod parent up, troll or no troll, pun intended or unintended. he's still correct.

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393828)

And 98% of it is air. WAKE UP PEOPLE they're charging you for FREE AIR!

Well they're not going to fool me! (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393870)

I only buy free, readily available natural resources in plastic bottles!!

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393900)

I prefer compressed air from a can. You should try it sometime.

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

sub67 (979309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394990)

I prefer compressed air from a can. You should try it sometime.

It's like I'm walking on sunshine.

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394280)

No, it's more cynical than that. Like so many late night commercials, the air free, but they stick it to you on the packaging charges.

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393914)

Nevermind price: When can I get one of those to put in my Wiimote?

Re:Wish they made it cheap (-1, Offtopic)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394016)

Tell you what. I will buy you one, if you promise to stop using "never mind" as one word. Or, you can promise to always use the new word "alwaypayattentionto" as its antonym. But I think the first choice is better.

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394242)

Tell you what, I will buy you one. If you promise to stop using "never mind" as one word; or you can promise to always use the new word "alwaypayattentionto" as its antonym. But I think the first choice is better.

Fixed that up for you.

He who casts stones...

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394030)

I saw this [msn.com] two or so years ago. When I searched a few minutes ago, I can't find that it's gone anywhere, but it's not yet been very long.

Insulation as a "house battery" (3, Insightful)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394042)

A house using its insulation as a battery would mean a pretty big battery. With lots of these houses, we could save alot of the energy generated during the night (currently lost, thus wasted due to low demand) to be returned to the grid for use during the day, and especially the evening (peak usage period).

Re:Insulation as a "house battery" (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394070)

With lots of these houses, we could save alot of the energy generated during the night (currently lost, thus wasted due to low demand)

There is nothing to be saved at night. Thats a miss conception.
In the electric grid no energy is produced that is not used somewhere. The grid would collapse if you would pump in energy that is not taken out somewhere else.

angel'o'sphere

Re:Insulation as a "house battery" (4, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394194)

Technically, you are correct. However, power companies have to run peak load plants to make up the difference in power draw from what the baseline plants provide. If you can come up with an economical means of storing vast amounts of energy, you would be able to build and operate more baseline plants, and do away with the more expensive, less efficient, peak plants.

Similarly, if you can provide a significant energy buffer, otherwise unreliable power sources like wind and solar become considerably more viable.

Re:Insulation as a "house battery" (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394684)

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.

Re:Insulation as a "house battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394754)

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.

One side of the equation needs to have some sort of stability, though. If production is reliable, then demand can fluctuate without too much problem, but if both sides fluctuate more than a little, you'll have serious problems. You'd need something like battery in every house to make that sort of system work, because if demand outpaces supply, you'll get rolling blackouts, and if supply suddenly outpaces demand you'll get blown transformers or worse (though that can be dealt with in other ways). We can't control wind or solar output the way we can with coal, nuclear, oil, etc.

Don't get me wrong, solar, geothermal, wind, tidal, etc are the future (unless great advances are made with fusion) but they do have drawbacks to consider, and some are bigger than others.

Re:Insulation as a "house battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394712)

Technically, you are correct. However, power companies have to run peak load plants to make up the difference in power draw from what the baseline plants provide. If you can come up with an economical means of storing vast amounts of energy, you would be able to build and operate more baseline plants, and do away with the more expensive, less efficient, peak plants.

Similarly, if you can provide a significant energy buffer, otherwise unreliable power sources like wind and solar become considerably more viable.

I believe the best option now is a hydro-electric power reserve, but that's only suitable in some locations. Still, if you're lucky enough to have a mountain or crater you can use, it's very decent.

Re:Insulation as a "house battery" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394270)

Right, but what does Mrs. Conception have to say about all that?

Re:Wish they made it cheap (4, Interesting)

Zerth (26112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394482)

You can make an aerogel suitable for home insulation purposes yourself. Just requires some practice, a 10 year old kid did it back in 2002.

http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2008/03/ten-year-old-ma/ [wired.com]

Also, there are several companies producing aerogel insulation sheets for the few places regular insulation doesn't make sense. e.g. really thin walls or shims between framing. Anywhere you aren't space constrained, you're probably better off just adding more conventional insulation.

Re:Wish they made it cheap (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394688)

Aerogel is starting to make its way into backpacking gear -- for example, ground rolls. Of course, some designers stupidly just assume "High R value = Keeps you warm" and ignore the infrared aspect.

Their names do not sound American !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394748)

Lei Zhai?

Jianhua Zou?

Are you sure they are Americans???

... Least dense solids (0)

DataDiddler (1994180) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393722)

Weight is an extrinsic quality that depends on quantity. (It's stupid and pedantic, but someone else would have if I didn't).

Re:... Least dense solids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393806)

It is stupid and pedantic. "One of the world's lightest solids PER CUBIC METER ON PLANET EARTH SEA LEVEL." Feel better?

Re:... Least dense solids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393846)

No. The summary isn't fixed yet. Get to work, pronto.

Re:... Least dense solids (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394068)

It's sloppy thinking to conflate mass, weight, and density. Laypeople might get away with it, but nerds tend to mind the units. That's why they're nerds, and also why their math works.

Actual Headline: (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393724)

Researchers Didn't Develop Super Batteries From Aerogel

Re:Actual Headline: (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394086)

Indeed. And the article is rubbish, too. No details whatsoever, just someone who says that maybe you can make batteries out of it.

Re:Actual Headline: (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394166)

When the signoff line in TFA is a stupid comment over what to call it, you know they definitely aren't onto something.

Re:Actual Headline: (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394710)

My reaction exactly. It's awful. And they didn't even mention that they're not talking about what is generally meant by "aerogel" -- silicon dioxide aerogel. They're talking about a less common form, carbon aerogel.

An interconnected mesh of carbon nanotubes is not a storage mechanism. It's not a capacitor. It's not a battery. It could perhaps be used as a scaffolding to store active anode or cathode materials -- but they haven't done that. And I have no clue how they'd go about making that into a capacitor, since a capacitor requires that your positive and negative sides *not* be interconnected -- but either way, they haven't done that either.

Also the best insulator (1)

crow (16139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393736)

If this means more research into cheaply producing areogels, that would be great. This stuff is the best insulation material (for heat) imaginable. Put that in my walls and attic, and my heating bills would go way down. Too bad it's completely impractical right now. Develop a spray-on areogel that's inexpensive and fire resistant, and you would transform the building industry.

Re:Also the best insulator (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393792)

I heard once that a house lined with aerogel could be heated with one candle. Very interesting stuff. Read the Wiki page on it, there's a list of applications including cleaning up spills, thickening agents, and trapping space dust from comets.

Re:Also the best insulator (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393954)

i think u would have to patch every hole in the walls, and make the doors airtight, and would be slow
also i think body heat does a better job

Re:Also the best insulator (3, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393964)

Likely, very much an overstatement. Wood and glass are terrible insulators, and since houses need windows and wood studs (generally), you will still need more BTUs than a candle to heat it. Windows and doors are your major heat losers right now. At least where I live (NC), you are required to put insulation in the walls and attic of any home you build, or remodel over 50%, so it isn't like the homes don't already have reasonable insulation.

Still, it would be a much *better* insulation that could cut heat bills by a large degree, but not 99%.

Re:Also the best insulator (1, Informative)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394096)

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

Re:Also the best insulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394200)

Take one in the hand and put the other end into fire. (Either wood or glass, does not matter), your hand stays cold.

Sticking wood into fire? I kinda think it has a good chance to matter.

Re:Also the best insulator (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394098)

It's R45 per inch vs 7.2 for the best commercially available foil faced insulation so it could reduce bills by a significant percentage. One interesting use is thermalblok, a 10mmx1.75" strip that you can apply to the studs to increase the structures R value by up to 40%. Only costs $1/ft.

Re:Also the best insulator (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394228)

Makes me wonder how you would go using vacuum to insulate a building.

Re:Also the best insulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394382)

Makes me wonder how you would go using vacuum to insulate a building.

It would be totally useless.

You may have noticed that millions of miles of hard vacuum between the earth and the sun has zero insulation effect.

Re:Also the best insulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394430)

Vacuum works to stop convection, not radiative heat transportation. If we put a mirrored sphere around the sun the vacuum would work pretty well then.

Re:Also the best insulator (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394018)

If that's the case (I have serious doubts) then you wouldn't need a candle. A person puts out about the same amount of heat as a candle, so just the person in the house would do the job.

Re:Also the best insulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394152)

Good point, but perhaps the "candle" urban rumor meant you need one human + one candle to keep the temperature level.

It's still nonsense because an adult male puts out 115 W, in front of which I believe the candle can be neglected.

The 115 W figure comes from 2500 kcal / day, with 2500 kcal ~ 10000000 joules.

Re:Also the best insulator (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394726)

Aerogel does not block IR. It has an excellent R-value, but R-value is not about radiation.

New? What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:New? What? (2)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394738)

One of my favorite things you could potentially do with aerogel is to make solid lighter-than-air structures. The best evacuated aerogels are about 20% lighter than air. Keeping them evacuated, of course, means sealing off their edges (aerogels are, unsurprisingly, gas-permeable), but the mass of such a seal rises proportional to the radius squared while the buoyant volume rises proportional to the volume cubed.

Maybe something other than batteries? (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393784)

Dr. Zhai's faculty web page [ucf.edu] mentions conductivity and chemical sensitivity but not battery applications.

Battery electrolytes need more properties than just being conductive.

Re:Maybe something other than batteries? (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393904)

Wait, am I missing something? If the tubes are that much thinner, you can pack them in tighter, giving it gives more surface area, which is why it's better, right?

I had been under the impression that was the main stumbling block in developing better batteries.

Re:Maybe something other than batteries? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394826)

What types of batteries are you thinking of? The main stumbling blocks in high-energy forms of traditional li-ion batteries are electrode pulverization during intercalation. Li-ion batteries with a lithium metal anode have difficulties with dendrite formation.

How about other advanced batteries? Lithium-sulfur batteries have the stumbling blocks of polysulfide formation and migration across the membrane. Lithium-air batteries are limited by dendrite formation and electrode clogging. In fact, NAFION membranes are tricky in general (they're used for other advanced chemistries such Nickel-lithium batteries). And you can also look at some of the really out-there ideas, such as digital quantum capacitors, whose main stumbling blocks are unknown because it's such a crazy idea nobody has even started the most basic steps at trying to build them ;)

Re:Maybe something other than batteries? (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394910)

My apologies, I realized that I was thinking of hydrogen fuel cells.

Thin hair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393802)

aerogel contains multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) which each one several thousands thinner than human hair.

If it's thousands of times thinner than MY hair, it's nonexistent! Nyuk nyuk.

They think it will make a super battery (4, Informative)

asm2750 (1124425) | more than 3 years ago | (#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

smoke filled batteries (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393832)

Only good as long as the smoke doesn't get out..

I can't belive you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393896)

...the whole aerogel. Somebody needs a proof-reader.

Buy Now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393910)

Aerogel capacitors at digikey.

Bad Links Abound (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393916)

They have at least one link missing the http:/// [http] prefix. FAIL

Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393924)

I don't mean to diminish the accomplishments of the team from UCF, but the submitter makes aerogel sound like some crazy new material when it has been around since the 30's and has even been used in super-caps for a while. I'm not sure how long it has been used for it's electrical characteristics, but here's an article from 2004 which mentions using aerogel in capacitors: http://www.aip.org/tip/INPHFA/vol-10/iss-5/p26.html

Worst sentence in a summary. Ever. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393938)

One of the world's lightest solids, aerogel contains multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) which each one several thousands thinner than human hair.

Not lightest, but "least dense".
Aerogel CAN (but doesn't have to) contain multi-walled carbon nanotubes.
Which? Which what?
Several thousands of what? Times? Or did you mean "thousandths"; again, thousandths of what?
Than "a" human hair? Or just "human hair" generically?

Dont't let the smoke out. (2)

unlocked (305145) | more than 3 years ago | (#35393958)

I knew that the smoke that came out of electronics was important stuff. No wonder it stops working, all the energy has turned into a gaseous state.

Theoretical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35393988)

I hate theoretical posts. When it is applied and tested let me know. Otherwise, the people won't see it for another 10 years. If they can make a pair of batteries that never run out or last years for a good price that would be amazing. Personally I would love to see more wireless charging electronics with a single home base station. Heard about them a few years ago but no economical applications yet.

Re:Theoretical (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394384)

Personally I would love to see more wireless charging electronics with a single home base station. Heard about them a few years ago but no economical applications yet.

There is this. [witricity.com] Yes, the applications are not mainstream yet, but it appears to me as though these guys are open for business and ready to go, they're just waiting on clients. This is /., if we had to wait for marketing/finance approval for every interesting new thing, we'd be reading a Sharper Image catalog.

Numbers please... (5, Informative)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394024)

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]

Re:Numbers please... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394122)

Even if aerogels really did make good batteries and had great energy density, you could end up like this:

The Good News: New aerogel battery has highest energy density by mass than any other battery.

The Bad News: Unfortunately, energy density by volume is so poor you'd need to fill your car with aerogel to make it a mile.

Re:Numbers please... (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394258)

Accelerating the mass of the battery doesn't really matter. Induction motors can be run in reverse to recover most (>85%) of the energy put into the vehicle. The chemical storage in the battery is simply exchanged for kinetic storage in the vehicle. The problem is the increase in rolling friction on the tires, which increases with higher load, and is a significant amount of loss until you get well above highway speeds.

Re:Numbers please... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394600)

Good point !

I actually realized that I forgot to mention it right after posting.

Unfortunately, recuperating the energy while braking has at most a 50% efficiency last time I looked, mainly due to heat dissipation occurring in the process. 85% seems optimistic depending of the real life setup you plan to use but you might be right after all ;-)

It sounds to me like layers and layers of non-efficiency piled up together. At least if we compare it to gasoline efficiency. Trolley or other means of not having to transport the power source seems like the only viable alternatives to me.

As for your tire resistance, I also agree. Railways are good at this because this factor remains almost constant at all speeds.

On this topic, wind resistance is much more important to take into account IMHO. Do not forget it grows about the square of the speed in terrestrial transport speeds.

Re:Numbers please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394660)

...and the _power_ required to overcome drag (maintain constant velocity) is CUBED with respect to speed.

Re:Numbers please... (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394760)

Unfortunately, recuperating the energy while braking has at most a 50% efficiency last time I looked, mainly due to heat dissipation occurring in the process. 85% seems optimistic depending of the real life setup you plan to use but you might be right after all ;-)

50% seems awfully horrible for a generator. Induction motors tend to be above 90% efficient over most of their operating range, for both directions. The 85% value was a rough guess for the full power, plus recovery, including battery inefficiency. If I had to guess, I would say the 50% value was from the fact that most existing electric vehicles use pathetically small electric motors. The dynamic braking capacity of the 27kW motor in a Prius is extremely limited, meaning drivers typically fall back to more traditional brakes (heat dissipation). I would bet the 188kW motor in a Tesla fares far better.

Re:Numbers please... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394266)

Sorry to nit pick as your figures are a bit off, but you are correct batteries are still a long way from the energy densities of hydrocarbons.

a gasoline engine is around 20% efficient (40% for diesel), so a gasoline provides 9.28 MJ/kg of usable energy. An electric engine is roughly 85% efficient giving 0.119 MJ/kg usable energy for a Lead Acid Battery. A good lithium ion battery has 0.72 MJ/kg, or 0.612 MJ/kg usable energy in an electric engine.

For cars the typically petrol engine/gearbox etc is heavier than an electric drive, which will partially offset the greater mass of the batteries.

your efficiencies may vary.

Re:Numbers please... (1)

ender06 (913978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394282)

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.

Um, what?

Top of the line Lithium Ion batteries (they'll soon trickle down to automotive) are at about 240 Wh/kg, or 0.864 MJ/kg. Now, here's the cool thing about electric cars, you can get ~70%+ efficiency from battery to tire patch (aka, 70% of the power is used to move the car), and 80%+ fairly easily. Gasoline engines top out at around 25-35% efficient (Carnot efficiencies). Assuming a gasoline efficiency of 35% and electric car efficiency of 70%, you need half as much energy per kg storage capacity for electric cars.

The second cool thing about electric cars, regenerative breaking. You can recover around 70% of the energy from stopping as electricity and put it back into your battery. It is easily more efficient to use batteries/electric drive trains than gasoline in urban transportation. Why do you think hybrids get such great city mileage? This further reduces the storage density needed. Hybrid buses are awesome at city transportation, serial hybrids at any type of transportation are just epic. Electric drive train to maximize drive train efficiency, gasoline or other generator for range running at most efficient gearing.

Re:Numbers please... (1)

Biogenesis (670772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394456)

To be fair it would be best to compare energy densities while compensating for the increased efficiency of electric motors over an ICE.

Perhaps we need a new unit: km/kg. So if you have a vehicle which can travel 100km on 10kg of petrol the target would be a 10kg battery which can get the vehicle the same distance.

Personally I don't see the need for equal petrol/electric vehicle ranges as the inconvenience of traveling to a designated refueling station is removed because there is electricity in my garage. (Obviously this doesn't work for everyone but it has massive potential for a significant portion of the population).

Re:Numbers please... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394676)

Good point for people living in rural areas. In urban or suburb areas, it doesn't really apply.

Re:Numbers please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394724)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_borohydride is my bet.

Article is highly inaccurate (5, Informative)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Article is highly inaccurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394646)

Materials scientist says thanks.

Summary is misleading, at best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394216)

Nowhere does the article say that the researchers have "developed" batteries based on Aerogel. At best, they speculate that it may be a useful material to make batteries from.

The REAL story/link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394252)

The battery/cap part is only some of the story:

http://news.ucf.edu/UCFnews/index?page=article&id=00240041052a2b5bb012d4490764900da4&subject_id=0024004102975ad83011b2b83251c0c35

Crackpot ideas (2)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394412)

Since I'm hoping that this topic will be read by someone who actually knows something about aerogels, I'm wondering if they could comment on some crackpot ideas (mine not the researchers! ;)

First, what is the "compression strength" of aerogels? (I'm not a material scientist so I don't know what is the proper term). If it is sufficiently high maybe it could withstand 1 atmosphere of pressure. In that case and if the aerogel structure was sufficiently light, imagine the following application: take a block of aerogel structure and wrap it in something like plastic wrap (non-gas permeable). Pump all the air out. Voila! It floats being lighter than air without using helium (costly) or hydrogen (flammable).

The reason I said "aerogel structure" is because even if a SOLID block of aerogel is still too heavy (heavier than air), a "hollowed out" block or a block like the bones of a bird's wing could be significantly lighter. In a more extreme example, perhaps aerogel struts and girders could be used to make an ultra-ultra light structure that would be enclosed by the non-gas permeable film (how about using a 1-atom thick film of graphene? It has been shown capable of resisting an atmosphere's worth of pressure!).

Secondly, how is this new (carbon nanotube based) aerogel made? Does it still require a super-critical fluid? If this (or any other aerogel) can be made in a vacuum (or if all the other materials needed for production can be recycled) perhaps it could be made IN ORBIT. Since aerogel is so light, just a "relatively" small amount of starting material (by mass) could make a large amount of aerogel (by volume). If 10 grams could make 1 cubic meter of the stuff, then 10 metric tons could make a piece 1 meter thick a kilometer square. Voila! The perfect "space garbage" collector.

As demonstrated by the NASA space probe "Stardust", aerogels are very well suited for capturing hypervelocity particles; while the Stardust probe only collected microscopic particles its aerogel was very thin, a 1 meter thick aerogel would hopefully be capable of getting much larger (paint flecks? loose screws?) sized objects. While still capable of serious damage (in the right spot anything moving at 7km/sec can hurt) these small objects are not only much more numerous than the large ones but are the hardest (impossible?) to track and are economically infeasible to track down with a "space tug". Even if didn't completely stop them dead in their tracks, hopefully they would lose so much kinetic energy as to drop out of orbit quickly.

Of course, these occasional impacts would gradually slow down the collector so it would need to be reboosted. A small but very efficient ion engine should do the trick which would also be used to go to a new orbit once it has "cleaned up" the one it is working on. Perhaps the best method would be just apply a very thin silvered film to one side and, by careful adjustments of its orientation, allow the sun's light pressure to blow it anywhere you want. (In fact if you apply crackpot idea number one, of aerogel "struts and girders" with crackpot idea numbet two, of the ability to manufacture this stuff in space and a very thin silvered film, you have the ability to make extremely large, low mass solar sails!)

Of course both schemes also require the ability to make industrial sized quantities of the stuff, affordably!

Not new for caps. (1)

carstene (267166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394548)

Cooper Bussman has made aerogel supercaps for years. You can get values up to like 100F that will fit in your hand and only weigh grams. Very cool but only 3v max so the uses are limited.

as seen in movies.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35394580)

oh man, that's amazing, anyone remember the movie "demolition man"? the charector in that movie that was played by sandra bullok mentond that the cars in the future ran on a type of "energy gel". its amazing how many things are predicted in movies these days that com to fruition hmm?

Help! I don't get this at all (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35394882)

That aerogel could be fine for capacitors, that I can accept. But for batteries you need atoms to store the energy in. And an aerogel is mostly anything but atoms. Perhaps they fill the gaps in the aerogel, taking advantage of the conducting(?) aerogel structure? But if the aerogel structure is conducting, I don't understand why it would be fine for capacitors.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

Bert

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