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MIT's Nano Storage Could Replace Hybrid Batteries

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the replace-the-darn-bunny dept.

Power 191

mattnyc99 writes "Last week we discussed Popular Mechanics' reporting from MIT, but missed one of the coolest breakthrough of all, something scientists have been working on quietly as Detroit spends money elsewhere. The Lab for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems has been doing some mega-efficient work with ultracapacitors, which store drastically less energy than a battery but have essentially none of the drawbacks — especially via carbon nanotube arrays. Automotive experts say the new research is enough to start replacing batteries in hybrid cars, and plug-in vehicles might not be far behind. From the scientist who thinks ultracapacitors are potential competitors for the pack in his Toyota Prius: 'I try to contain myself, because it hasn't been proven yet, but it could be a real paradigm change.'"

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Better capacitors (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628644)

Implications for Focus Fusion? [lawrencevi...hysics.com]

Capacitors have drawbacks too (4, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628778)

Even discounting the problems getting very high capacity with low ESR, capacitors still have a drawbacks. The charge is proportional to the voltage which means that the voltage keeps going up with more charge. On the discharge side it means that the voltage keeps reducing as you discharge the capacitor. Thus, the power supplies that are powered by capacitors need to work with a wider range of voltages. This tends to make them less efficient and more complex.

Re:Capacitors have drawbacks too (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629176)

Let me get this straight. You don't think that the scientists at MIT have thought of this? To read your post, it's a deal breaker and the MIT guys are a bunch of Cold Fusion Clowns.

Re:Capacitors have drawbacks too (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629196)

On the plus side, it's easier to measure charge.

Re:Capacitors have drawbacks too (3, Interesting)

Ixlr8 (63315) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629392)

Although your point is valid to a certain extent, I think you're exagarating the 'problem' of charge and voltage being proportional. Modern switched mode power converters can do a good job.

Additionally I could see a solution in which not all capacitors are use at the same time. By activating them in a proper order/way, one could make a more constant source that can then be the input for a SMPS.

Re:Capacitors have drawbacks too (2, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630080)

Modern switchers do a pretty good job, but as with everything else there are compromises. As you tune for stability you tend to give away performance. Dealing with wider voltage ranges makes the whole trade-off even harder.

Focus fusion (2, Insightful)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628898)

The implications are that it still won't work.

Did anybody elses Science Teacher (2, Interesting)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628684)

leave charged capacitors on the parts shelf to reinforce the "Don't Touch" rule? I bet one of these would reallllly hurt :-)

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (2, Funny)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628736)

leave charged capacitors on the parts shelf to reinforce the "Don't Touch" rule?

No. I think yours just had it in for you. You should've left the lithium where it was....

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629374)

Naa, not me. The jocks were the ones that always got it, sometimes more then twice...

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (1)

lexarius (560925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628788)

No, but my chemistry teacher kept dead moles in the lab freezer.

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628872)

Those were for my lunch, you insensitive clod!

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629336)

Our Chem teacher in high school had a huge mole on her face, so when she started talking about moles, it was more than a little humorous.

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630276)

Was it Mr Taylor?

Re:Did anybody elses Science Teacher (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22628806)

Mine did, but not on purpose. He just left one too close to the Van De Graff generator. Ruined a perfectly good digital watch I had, but I didn't get sent to the principals office for my Atomic F-Bomb.

The Manhattan Project (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630448)

leave charged capacitors on the parts shelf to reinforce the "Don't Touch" rule? I bet one of these would reallllly hurt :-)

Especially if they're for photo strobes.

Falcon

Neat-o.... (0)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628698)

Another alternative - I'd be all for it ... and can we skip the format war? There are SO many new technologies that have to do with power storage ...
and I'm still upset about betamax vs vhs and minidisc vs cd. Please don't even MENTION Blu-ray (I thought I'd pick the non-sony format THIS time *sigh*)

less than batteries? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628780)

These hold less energy than batteries and yet they're going to be economically feasible? Can someone please explain to me how this is going to work, because it's not making sense to me right now. It sounds like they'll either have to add so many capacitors that it becomes counter productive, or else they'll have a short range and useless for road trips. Either way it won't work.

Re:less than batteries? (3, Informative)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628890)

The main issue with battery technology is not amount of charge held ( there are already electric cars that can get a similar range as petrol ones ), but the batteries that have a good enough performance are very expensive and wear out after a number of years. It also takes quite a while to recharge. If super capacitors can obtain a longer lifetime then the economics may look more attractive and they also have the advantage that the recharge time is more or less limited by the rate at which you can deliver energy, rather than the performance of the storage system.

Re:less than batteries? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629138)

What about capacitor/chemical battery hybrid storage systems? The big chemical portion for power density, and the ultra capacitor for bursting.

Re:less than batteries? (3, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629148)

you forgot two other important differences. Weight, and toxic chemicals. Super capacitors are far cleaner and easier to dispose of later. Also the Chemical that make up large battery banks are very heavy. If you can shave 500 pounds off of a car just by removing the batteries and replacing them with equal sized super capacitors then your electric car will be a lot more efficient over the long haul.

Re:less than batteries? (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630040)

1) Li-ion batteries use no toxic components in manufacture, and while conventional li-ions have some chemicals that are poisonous in the end products, A) the latest generations of them designed for automotive use lose those (such as using nicer electrolytes and replacing the LiCoO2 cathode), and B) they break down harmlessly once disposed (no heavy metals or the like).

2) For a given amount of charge, an ultracapacitor is a lot *heavier* than a battery bank. They're lower energy density (assuming EEStor [wikipedia.org] doesn't pull off a miracle).

How about on-the-go charging? (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629324)

This is one that has been in the back of my mind since I heard about an supercapacitor based bus they have going in Beijing. It charges at every bus stop from an inductive charger. I found that so conceptually attractive. And it also fits so well with the Chinese attitude towards life. I live in China and people are really into keeping it light and just getting by with what you need. My in-laws can't stand my love for clutter and collecting stuff like old PCs.

      Anyhow, after seeing that, I couldn't help but think of the recent work on resonant inductive wireless electricity transmission. That was also being researched at MIT if I recall correctly. It made the rounds here at Slashdot. In summary, it's a matter of pulsing a current at a certain frequency in both the transmitter and reciever to enable inductive charging over distances of something like ten meters. Probably it could go further than that if it was engineered for a specific application.

      So here's my 0.02. Rather than trying to get cars to carry enough charge to go hundreds of miles, how about just giving them enough capacity to go say fifty miles and then building inductive chargers literally embedded into the freeways. In order to charge up, you simply get onto the freeway and every hundred feet or so your capacitor can get zapped with charge at a nice high voltage.

      You'd have a set of buried transmission lines on the side of every freeway that would feed the inductive chargers. Then, in the roadbed itself, you'd only need minimally invasive roadwork since you could do a hundred feet or more at a time. A crew should be able to do several miles of road per night.

Safety shouldn't be a problem. The system only transmits to conductors that are resonating at a certain set frequency so you don't have to worry about the road getting wet and causing a hazard to someone who happens to stop and fix a flat in the rain or some such scenario.

      The biggest hurdles are, as usual, probably more political than technical.

Re:How about on-the-go charging? (1)

chihowa (366380) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629402)

Who pays for the energy used to charge the vehicles? This would also amount to another "subsidy" for the trucking industry.

Re:How about on-the-go charging? (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629424)

So here's my 0.02. Rather than trying to get cars to carry enough charge to go hundreds of miles, how about just giving them enough capacity to go say fifty miles and then building inductive chargers literally embedded into the freeways. In order to charge up, you simply get onto the freeway and every hundred feet or so your capacitor can get zapped with charge at a nice high voltage.


Great, but how do you pay for the electricity you use? I guess you could add it to the toll booths for freeways, but what ever everywhere else?

Re:How about on-the-go charging? (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629496)

My step-dad, an electrical engineer, was talking about something extremely similar quite a few years ago. We decided it really wasn't a practical idea as every road would have to be ripped up and replaced, at least in long stretches at first, in order to provide for those cars that relied on it. And of course there's the question of who pays for the energy supplied, but we found that to be a lesser roadblock (har har) because that should be a very simple technical issue to resolve. Something like one of those speedpass devices for toll-roads could easily keep track of the usage.

Re:How about on-the-go charging? (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630122)

No ripping up of massive stretches of road needed. It can be done as an incremental process. Step one, vehicles are increasingly electrified (already increasingly underway). Step two, the vehicles are designed to have inductive chargers and any new or repaved roads have chargers/meters installed. The vehicles still need to have sufficient battery or gasoline power to keep going a relevant distance when there are no suitable roads around. Step three, enough roads in some places are converted that cars can start ditching energy storage/backup engines. Those who want to be able to offroad can still get vehicles with extended range.

Incremental changes tend to work a lot better than radical departures, especially when the capital costs are as huge as in the case of replacing our entire transportation infrastructure.

As for the person who asked about who would pay -- that's easy. Ever seen an EZ-Pass toll booth? :) Same sort of concept. Your vehicle has an identifying chip and transponder, and the road meters you. No identifier, no juice. Or, if that proved too costly, it'd be easy enough to have the occasional random bit of "smart road" that checks to see if you're stealing power, connected to a concealed camera to photograph cheats.

Re:How about on-the-go charging? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630348)

No identifier, no juice

I'm not sure that can work, after all the other cars who DO have a "EZ-Jolt" tag would like to get the electricity they're paying for even when they're driving alongside a car who isn't paying.

Re:less than batteries? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629900)

Umm, what happens when the charged ultracapacitor is crushed in a collision?

Is all the energy released in a few milliseconds, as an explosion, or a cool lightning bolt that burns up the car's sheet metal parts, like what happens to a CD in the microwave?

Will I be able to get an automotive ultracap from the junkyard in a few years, charge it, and cross its terminals with a bolt (from a distance), for 4th of July?

Anybody think that will be illegal in California?

Re:less than batteries? (1)

flabbergast (620919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628896)

From the article:
'"In order to prolong the life of the battery in my car, they only use it over the middle 10 to 15 percent of its range he says. "So actually I'm only using perhaps 15 percent of the capacity. With an ultracapacitor you can use it all, or almost all."'

So, if you're only using 10%-15% of the battery, then 5% for current ultracapacitor isn't too far off. With the ultracapacitor you don't have to worry about battery memory or the explosiveness of LiIon. So, in the researcher's eyes, this is a win-win situation. Whether he's correct when he states manufacturers only use 10-15% of the battery remains to be seen. I don't know if I quite buy the math...

rtfa (4, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628938)

These hold less energy than batteries and yet they're going to be economically feasible? Can someone please explain to me how this is going to work, because it's not making sense to me right now.
there's no battery memory caused by partial discharging and no reduction in capacity with each recharge. "They never wear out, they have no electrolyte, they don't have any chemistry taking place in them," Schindall says. "It's just an electric field that stores the energy. So you can recharge a capacitor a gazillion times. It's very efficient--just the internal resistance of the wires." The ions cling electrostatically to materials in a capacitor, which also allows for much quicker charge times. And by avoiding the chemical reaction that drives traditional batteries, there's no real danger of a capacitor suddenly overloading--or exploding like a laptop's lithium-ion battery pack.

Re:rtfa (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629300)

just dont plug them in the wrong way...

Re:rtfa (1)

cobaltnova (1188515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630044)

For anybody who hasn't taken an electronics class, let me atest to this: (at least conventional) capacitors WILL explode if put in the wrong way.

Re:rtfa (1)

MSZ (26307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630388)

Only electrolytic ones.

Re:rtfa (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629994)

One advantage to capacitors that I haven't seen mentioned yet is they tend to be have much higher charge/discharge efficiency then batteries. NiMh batteries, in a Prius, are roughly only 60% efficient over a charge/discharge cycle where as capacitors can often be 95+% efficient. While this doesn't help a plug-in hybrid that much (where overall capacity is most important) it might be compelling on a normal hybrid where there is frequent charging/discharging of the battery (regenerative breaking, smoothing out the engine etc.). Might get a couple extra MPG out of that effect alone.

Re:rtfa (1)

rcw-work (30090) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630132)

And by avoiding the chemical reaction that drives traditional batteries, there's no real danger of a capacitor suddenly overloading--or exploding like a laptop's lithium-ion battery pack.

There is still a danger - Capacitors that store a lot of energy use very very thin insulators to separate large sheets of foil charged to large voltages. Insulators are only good for a certain number of volts per meter, and they won't make them much thicker than they need to be - it would reduce the capacity. Imperfections in this insulator will eventually result in short circuits and arcing. If there's enough energy stored in the capacitor to get the surrounding material hot enough, it could catch fire or vent explosively.

Re:rtfa (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630160)

1) Li-ions have no memory effect.
2) Modern automotive li-ions are rated for a decade or two of service.
3) Modern automotive li-ions are non-explosive. Compare, for example, this A123 battery with a traditional li-ion [youtube.com] .
4) Many modern automotive li-ions have very fast recharge times -- 5-15 minutes, depending on the type.

Don't get me wrong -- ultracapacitors are great. But until they can increase their energy density by an order of magnitude, they're only competing against the batteries in hybrids (and not plug-in hybrids, either).

Re:less than batteries? (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628952)

You can use them more than traditional batteries. It's kind of like how an NiMH AA rechargeable battery holds roughly half as much charge as an alkaline would, but you can recharge it 4-600 times or so and thus get 2-300 times more use out of it.

Re:less than batteries? (2, Informative)

Andy_R (114137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629084)

As far as I can see, they have 2 big plus points:

That they can be cycled as many times as you like without degrading, and they don't get damaged by being totally discharged. This opens up possibilities like contunially topping them back up with recovered braking energy, as well as getting rid of the buffer needed to prevent total discharge with conventional batteries.

Secondly, they are not volatile, so they could be built into a lot of places where you couldn't put a lead/acid battery - instead of your dashboard being .25in of plastic, it could easily be .24in of ultracapacitor with .01in of plastic coating. The same goes for every cosmetic part of the car that doesn't need to be transparent or comfy, as well as any structural members that the stuff turns out to have the right properties to replace. There's a hell of a lot of weight in a car that has the potential to be made out of ultracapacitor instead of whatever it's made of now.

Re:less than batteries? (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629568)

Non-volatile my shiny metal keister! What do you think is going to happen when you make a short in this thing, this thing that stores massive amounts of electrical power with little to no resistance? Right, plasmaball. Fiery death. Yes, supercapicators need armor. They cannot be safely put into the hands of the average consumer without it.

Re:less than batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629736)

Capacitors may be less dangerous than batteries but a fully charged capacitor is still going to be storing all of that energy, and it will still release it in one big bang if it is sufficiently damaged. Nothing is going to change the fact that this energy must be stored somewhere and that if you break the things that keep it stored, it will come out. This is actually one big advantage of chemical fuels, it's relatively tough to ignite and the supply of oxidizer is limited, so there are physical constraints on how quickly that energy can be released in the event of an accident.

Re:less than batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630008)

Amazingly enough, there's this thing called a ground. Ever wonder why a lightning strike on a vehicle doesn't vaporize the occupants?

In almost every way, an ultracapacitor is safer than a tank full of gasoline.

Please apply for a position at MIT (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629124)

Don't you think a question as basic as yours would have been considered by the folks putting forth this research? /Obviously/, the article is lacking in sufficient detail to prevent such idle speculations as yours.

But give the freaking MIT scientists a break, eh?

Re:Please apply for a position at MIT (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22630238)

/Obviously/, the article is lacking in sufficient detail to prevent such idle speculations as yours.
But as a result of the question, the comments on the article now contain that detail. I don't read the GP as saying anything negative about the people at MIT who worked on this. The GP asked a question about the claims of the article which caused a series of answering comments. That's just how slashdot works.

I don't think it's true in this case, but I've also seen articles that exaggerated the claims made by the researchers. It would be quite possible for the people at MIT to have made a discovery that was useful for some other purpose but not the one in the article. In that case too, it's perfectly legitimate to point out a weakness in the claims of the article. It's not ragging on the researchers; it's ragging on the article writer.

Re:less than batteries? (4, Informative)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629348)

These hold less energy than batteries and yet they're going to be economically feasible? Can someone please explain to me how this is going to work, because it's not making sense to me right now. It sounds like they'll either have to add so many capacitors that it becomes counter productive, or else they'll have a short range and useless for road trips. Either way it won't work.


Probably already addressed adequately by other responders, but I'll chime in.

At the moment, ultra-capacitors may be best suited for systems such as hybrids where you have a constant, low power source such as a small generator in a hybrid. The idea being that you could get good power/acceleration out of a capacitor when needed and the rest of the time is spent recharging from the motor. All without the disadvantages of batteries. Think of it as a sort of electrical flywheel.

-matthew

Re:less than batteries? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629432)

I hate to sound like a hippie nutter, but the side-effect advantage of what has been already mentioned is that it's slightly better for the environment. Some batteries are truly awful for it. Plus, there simply isn't enough lead and lithium on the planet to make every single motor vehicle on the planet a current-generation hybrid.

Paradigm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22628792)

Since when do scientists use the P-word? Tell me about your project. It's a paradigm!

Re:Paradigm? (4, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628962)

paradigm change
Change for a pair of dimes

See also "nickel and dime you to death".

Think of this as the Future not as the Present (3, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628828)

The reality is that it will take quite a few years to test such systems for pollution, crash resistance, flexibility, and so on if used on the quantity levels required to power plug-in hybrid 100 plus mpg vehicles.

During this time, it would be logical to buy one of the 2009 or 2010 model year plug-in hybrids that will be on the market - and then ten years down the road see if a battery pack replacement using this capacitor technology is on the market and cheap enough due to large scale production to implement.

Do now. Not ten years in the future.

(p.s. a cure for half of all cancers is being tested in the UK right now, but it takes almost a decade to do the trials before it comes to market)

Re:Think of this as the Future not as the Present (0, Flamebait)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629220)

Hi, I'm the self-important liberal who think he's saving the earth by driving a slightly-more fuel-efficient car to his giant home in suburbia.

Hi, I'm the energy company that just bought more oil because the self-important liberals thought they were doing the planet a favor by using less.

Hi, I'm the non-cookie-cutter human who lives in a small apartment, but uses incandescent bulbs and drives a small, non-hybrid car. TERRORIST!

Hi, I'm the Slashdot poster who points out that a simple carbon tax with the proceeds applied to carbon sinking on a competitive bid process would properly align incentives and contain all the externalities of carbon, and that unless these incentives are fundamentally changed, attempts to buy a hybrid car to drive to your mansion or fill it with CFLs are really nothing more than signaling how much you care while not actually accomplish anything. TERRORIST!

(Hey, might as well, since I can't revive this accounts karma, even after I've offered to give in to my mod-stalkers' demands...)

Re:Think of this as the Future not as the Present (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629438)

It's likely that the new charge storage system won't simply be a drop in replacement for your current batteries. It will probably require new control and charging electronics. This isn't just a battery, it delivers varying amounts of voltage depending on it's charge.

Re:Think of this as the Future not as the Present (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629558)

Depends, the battery packs are fairly large, so doing a system swap after 10 years would still be cheaper than a new battery, regardless. Many electronics systems tend to give out in the 10-20 year range, which is always expensive, but the battery packs are very expensive, so doing a system swap might make sense.

Plug-In (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628870)

I've been planning the initial works to convert my car ('91 Chrysler Daytona) to an Electric Plug-in.
My (tentative) plan is to use a hybrid Battery/UltraCapacitor design for "burstable" speed where batteries are lacking.
Perhaps if this new design works its way out into the wild, I will opt for a pure ultra-capacitor design? I doubt it, but it certainly would be cool. Recharge times would be very, very fast.

Re:Plug-In (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629094)

My (tentative) plan is to use a hybrid Battery/UltraCapacitor design for "burstable" speed where batteries are lacking.
I suggested this on the EAA-PHEV mailing list, as a way to buffer the battery storage system from heavy draws (i.e. hard acceleration) although I don't think anything ever came of it. The trick is going to be to isolate the capacitor(s) from the battery storage system during the heavy draw, so the motor pulls the power from the capacitor. I suggest doing this by determining the accelerator position/rate of travel (off to floor in under X milliseconds = ultra capacitor bursting).

If you do decide to go with an ultra capacitor, let me know if you have success with that design.

Re:Plug-In (1)

alext (29323) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630090)

The Morgan Lifecar [morgan-motor.co.uk] does this I believe.

It only looks like it's from the 1930s...

Re:Plug-In (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630230)

If you're using automotive li-ions, that's not necessary; they have plenty of power on their own. If you're using cheap lead-acid, that's a great idea. Not only will it help you with "burstable" speed (peak draw), but there's another, less obvious advantage. Lead-acid batteries are notable for losing charge capacity the faster you draw current from them. By using an ultracapacitor to maintain a lower, steadier draw from the batteries, you'll give yourself longer range.

Excepting EEStor pulling off a real breakthrough with their barium titanate supercapacitors, you'll never have enough space in your car for it to be powered entirely by them. The energy density is too low. Also, they leak charge faster than batteries.

Ka Booooooom!!! (5, Informative)

Powerbear (1227122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628914)

"And by avoiding the chemical reaction that drives traditional batteries, there's no real danger of a capacitor suddenly overloading--or exploding like a laptop's lithium-ion battery pack."

They won't explode like a lithium-ion battery pack, it will be a 100X worse.

If anything pierces the dielectric, all the energy stored in the capacitor will discharge violently in milliseconds.

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628960)

If anything pierces the dielectric, all the energy stored in the capacitor will discharge violently in milliseconds.

I hear something like this happens with condoms too.

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629040)

Well you are posting on slashdot, so you'll never know.

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (1)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629408)

Kind of like an exploding gas tank?

Lots of stored energy is bad. And the solution is...?

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (2, Informative)

Powerbear (1227122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629938)

Gas tanks don't explode. It takes 3 things to get something to burn. Oxygen, Heat, Fuel. To get something to explode, the fuel needs to be dispersed in the oxgen and there needs to be enough oxygen to support the explosion.

There is hardly any oxygen in a gas tank.

There's an episode of Mythbuster where they shoot tracer rounds (burning bullets) into a gas tank and can't get it to explode. Not enough oxygen, and the fuel isn't dispersed in the oxygen.

Batteries are OK in that the rate of discharge is limited by the chemistry involved. It's takes a while to fully dischage. The battery might get so hot that it melts everything around it, but it doesn't explosively dischage.

Capacitors on the other hand, have extremely high discharge rates and require no fuel, oxygen or heat to explode. Enough energy to power a vehicle for more than 100 miles would cause serious damage if the capacitor were to fail from an accident or manufacturing defect.

Everyone may think putting capacitors in a car is a good thing, but you're essentially mounting bombs in the car.

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (2, Interesting)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630050)

Unless of course you created a bank of super capacitors...This picture in the article suggested they were only maybe 1 cm across.

Lets take your 400 miles of charge (100 kw/h) and break it into 1000+ watch battery sized devices.

Sure if one gets pierced it is bad, but a well grounded system will prevent the others from melting while the one goes Ka BOOOOOOM.

Not only that, but I bet it will be cheaper to manufacture them in mass when they are small.

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (3, Informative)

SEAL (88488) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630150)

Gas tanks don't explode. It takes 3 things to get something to burn. Oxygen, Heat, Fuel. To get something to explode, the fuel needs to be dispersed in the oxgen and there needs to be enough oxygen to support the explosion.
Gas *vapor* is what's most dangerous. Dat to day you don't deal with that, except when you fill up or when your car has mechanical problems. But in a crash, if a gas tank were to leak, you suddenly have a high risk situation.

Also, boats -- particularly inboards, are more dangerous. Gas vapor is heavier than air so it tends to collect in the bilge area, whereas a car has open air beneath it. That's why you're supposed to run the blower for a bit before attempting to start a boat engine.

Capacitors on the other hand, have extremely high discharge rates and require no fuel, oxygen or heat to explode. Enough energy to power a vehicle for more than 100 miles would cause serious damage if the capacitor were to fail from an accident or manufacturing defect.

Everyone may think putting capacitors in a car is a good thing, but you're essentially mounting bombs in the car.
A properly designed ultracapacitor would ground out to the car's body in the event of a failure. It should be safer than gas simply because there is nothing that can be dispersed in an accident.

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629774)

If anything pierces the dielectric, all the energy stored in the capacitor will discharge violently in milliseconds.


There's still internal resistance, ya know. I imagine it being more along the lines of a meltdown. A molten capacitor burning/melting a hole right down through the car onto the road.

Would be interesting to test, anyway. Maybe a job for the Mythbusters?

Re:Ka Booooooom!!! (1)

Powerbear (1227122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630002)

Here's a link to a tiny capacitor exploding....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8gFgIQl2HI/ [youtube.com]

not much internal resistance

Theoretical limit of capacitors? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22628934)

This is a question I've wondered about since a friend of mine was talking about the best chemical-battery replacement.

What is the theoretical limit of a capacitor? That is, if you could somehow place all the atoms exactly where you wanted, what's the energy/weight ratio you could obtain?

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (4, Interesting)

mikeee (137160) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629096)

A capacitor has to hold the positively and negative charged portions of itself nearby, but electrically isolated; to keep the insulation from being crushed (opposite charges attract, remember) requires a certain physical strength proportinal the the charge stored that will put at least a top-end limit on capacitor capacity.

Interestingly, this is dependent (duh) on the strength (energy) of chemical bonds, so IIRC, the theoretical limit for capacitors is actually pretty much the same as for chemical fuels or batteries. (Now, small electric motors are more efficient than small engines, so electric systems can be a huge win, although the fuel system don't have to carry their own oxidizer...blah blah blah.)

Pretty much anything non-nuclear (you can throw flywheels, nanotech windup springs, and what have you in, too), should in a perfect world max out at roughly the same magnitude because they're all fundamenentally dependent on that chemical bond strength.

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629340)

But if you had a series of plates which were arranged +-+-+-+-, then why would anything get crushed? Wouldn't the opposite charged plates on either side of a plate both pull on it, and so the net force of a negative plate towards a positive plate would be zero?

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (1)

agbinfo (186523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629970)

If you have +-, you don't have a charge to discharge. That is, there's no stored energy. If you have a plate with all + and one with all -

Like:

+++++
-----

and you connect a resistor between the top plate and the bottom plate then current will flow.

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629978)

+|-|+|-|+ is what you're looking for. With the | being the material that separates the charges.

Also remember that the force is proportional to distance. So the + charges are much farther away.

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (1)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629538)

"requires a certain physical strength"

I think electrical discharge in the dialectric would happen before physical breakdown in some cases.

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (1)

naoursla (99850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629694)

I know very little about practical construction of capacitors. Is the physical strength of the insulation the most common weak point? I thought that the charge arcing through the insulation (and changing its resistance in the process) was the cause of failure in most capacitors. Or is the physical strength the weak point in ultra-capacitors?

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630380)

There are two main issues: dielectric constant and the permittivity. Voids in the capacitor are problematic for both, so, for one, eliminating voids is very important. Secondly, you need sufficient a dielectric constant to prevent voltage breakdown.

Perhaps the most interesting concept for high storage ultrapacitors out there right now is EEStor's barium titanate supercapacitors. Individual grains of barium titanate have an incredibly high permittivity of 18,500, but there are two problems. One is the aforementioned voids, which can lead to dielectric breakdown, charge leakage, and so on. The second is a nonlinear permittivity response to increasing voltage. Normally, capacitance increases relative to the voltage squared, but in high-K materials like barium titanate, the capacitance may only increase proportional to the voltage (not squared). EEStor has two patents for different ways of making their EESUs, and in both of them, the sintering process involves coated grains designed for the coating to fill in the voids and to provide nanoscale layering. I've run into some papers on the subject of layering of barium titanate with glass which suggest that the voltage linearity constant can be reduced to near zero in the process. I'm not familiar enough to know what the rammifications of this is, however.

EEStor has managed to convince Kleiner-Perkins, ZENN, and Lockheed that they're onto something. But a lot of people, with good reason, still want to see something more convincing before they'd be willing to believe that they've gotten over an order of magnitude improvement in capacitor energy density. If they can pull it off, it'll be a revolution.

If.

Re:Theoretical limit of capacitors? (1)

hauntfox (152706) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630214)

The grandparent is a very important question. We use diesel and not batteries or capacitors in our agricultural and industrial machinery because the chemical vs. electrochemical energy stored is not even remotely comparable by weight. Capaciters don't give up energy due to chemical bonds being broken, and the dielectric strength isn't based on the chemical bond strength. (Paper has twice the dielectric strength of quartz, for example.)

Back to answer the grandparent. Diesel has an energy density by weight of 11.6 KWh/kg.

Ultracapacitors have a theoretical energy density of up to 0.060 KWh/kg.

So they don't really max out at the same magnitude at all, because the energy really isn't being stored in a similar manner.

Dead "nano" buzzword is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22628968)

It's meaningless!

Fact: You can describe just about any chemical compound someway somehow with the useless nano adjective. Proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

Also, the same about mentioning that any technology could be used in medical and defense applications. Both industries are streaming with money due to corruption, and of course marketing new technologies to corrupt industries is highly profitable. Just about any new item can be useful in medical and defense applications. For example, new flavors of potato chips could benefit either.

creators' newclear power to replace nazi execrable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22628978)

& why not? its' user friendly kode base is absolutely free... of bugs, cost, liability etc.... let yOUR conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071229/ap_on_sc/ye_climate_records;_ylt=A0WTcVgednZHP2gB9wms0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080108/ts_alt_afp/ushealthfrancemortality;_ylt=A9G_RngbRIVHsYAAfCas0NUE [yahoo.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A [nytimes.com]

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

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Difference between battery and capacitor (1)

geophile (16995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629020)

Can someone please remind me how they differ?

Re:Difference between battery and capacitor (2, Informative)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629068)

A battery [wikipedia.org] stores energy in chemical form (sulfuric acid eventually reacts with lead, for instance), while a capacitor [wikipedia.org] uses physical effects, storing energy in an electrostatic field using an insulator between two conducting plates.

Obligatory EEstor reference (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629026)

No story about ultracapacitors would be complete without a reference to EEstor. As usual, they've shifted their delivery goal to late 2008 [forbes.com] .

Re:Obligatory EEstor reference (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629126)

But their technology seems to be for real. Lookheed also took out a license and confirmed their claims regarding energy density (ten times that of lead acid batteries). See this interview: http://www.gm-volt.com/2008/01/10/lockheed-martin-signs-agreement-with-eestor/ [gm-volt.com]

And yet (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629344)

They continue to miss major deadlines. If they're right, it's a huge game-changer. If they're wrong, they wouldn't be the first.

Re:Obligatory EEstor reference (1)

cartman (18204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629532)

Lookheed also took out a license and confirmed [eestor's] claims regarding energy density (ten times that of lead acid batteries).

I read the article you linked, and it doesn't seem to claim that. In the article, Lockheed said "We haven't personally tested their [eestor's] prototypes yet."

Re:Obligatory EEstor reference (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629830)

It does claim that, here is the relevant section quoted:
"Q: Do their caps hold 10x the energy at 1/10th the weight of a lead acid battery?"
"A: Yes."

I dunno guys (3, Funny)

JudgeFurious (455868) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629086)

I'm sticking with my 2006 GTO with the 6.0 V8 engine. Yeah it gets lousy mileage but I figure that if I go places really, really fast then I'm not polluting for as long as all those other people. Plus I'm helping to get rid of all that messy oil. As soon as that stuff is all used up we'll see real progress towards an alternative.

I'm doing it FOR the planet.

Re:I dunno guys (1)

sugar and acid (88555) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629362)

A rebadged holden monaro with a bigger yank engine. I hope your right about us making real progress on alternative energy sources, we don't want a fuel starved society decending into a anarchic dystopia to eventuate.

Interesting but totally unrelated sidenote, the first mad max film (road warrior in the US) opened with max chasing down (and killing) an outlaw in a 70's era Holden Monaro.

Re:I dunno guys (1)

G-funk (22712) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630162)

Max's interceptor was an XB Falcon, not a Monaro. Don't let any aussie Ford supporters hear you say that.

Re:I dunno guys (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629704)

I'm sticking with my 2006 GTO with the 6.0 V8 engine. Yeah it gets lousy mileage but I figure that if I go places really, really fast then I'm not polluting for as long as all those other people.


Reminds me of the joke about the blond who got pulled over for speeding. Cops asks her why she was speeding. She says "Because I was running low on gas and need to make it to the next gas station before I run out."

OK, not really much of a joke..... but still. Your post reminded me of it.

-matthew

Re:I dunno guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22629856)

I know this was a joke post, but "going places really fast" usually means poorer MPG. Poorer MPG means higher fuel consumption. Higher fuel consumption means more carbon out the tailpipe, thus *more* pollution.

"Nano" (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629290)

What's the general characteristic for something to be called "nano" something?

Re:"Nano" (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629662)

When "micro" is just too big.

Re:"Nano" (1)

Sprite_tm (1094071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629722)

The willingness of scientists to stretch a definition in order to gain more funds. s/(*)/nano-\1/g = more investors, it seems.

Would these work? (1)

kongit (758125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629320)

In my rail gun?

Electricity (3, Interesting)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629472)

So, how is all the new demands for electricity going to be satisfied.

I know everyone likes Electricity and such, but current demands are taxing the existing power grid / infrastructure.

And with all the NIMBYs out there, nobody is willing to build new and needed Hydro Electric, Nuclear, Coal powered plants anytime soon. So, the result is "cool, electric cars, but I can't use them because of the blackouts". And I don't assume that somehow people will give up the NIMBY attitudes for an electric car.

Its easy to be an environmentalist, you don't have to think of the requirements to achieve whatever goals you might have. It just has to sound good.

Re:Electricity (3, Insightful)

TinyManCan (580322) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629648)

One nice thing about electric cars is that they will typically be charging at night.

Power demands are much lower at night, so a population charging electric cars at night might allow us to make more efficient use of the grid all day long, instead of building it to handle a peak load it only sees 2 hours a day.

Re:Electricity (1)

D4MO (78537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629770)

I also forsee micro-generation. Small wind turbines and solar panels at each house generating additional power and storing it (in batteries or creating hydrogen or similar).

Re:Electricity (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630178)

So, how is all the new demands for electricity going to be satisfied.

I know everyone likes Electricity and such, but current demands are taxing the existing power grid / infrastructure.
Check out the article in the January SciAm: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan [sciam.com]
They include a new long haul HVDC grid in the proposal.

Re:Electricity (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630292)

So, how is all the new demands for electricity going to be satisfied.


We already know dozens of ways to generate electrical power, and any one of them would work fine. It's a solved problem. The NIMBY and load problems you mention are merely political and engineering challenges, and they will be resolved when it becomes economically necessary to resolve them.


Its easy to be an environmentalist, you don't have to think of the requirements to achieve whatever goals you might have. It just has to sound good.


No, it's hard to be an environmentalist, because you have deal with constant criticism from the "oh that will never work and you're stupid for even trying" crowd. It's much easier to sit sit on your fat ass and claim that nothing will ever work. Any idiot can do that, so why not give yourself a challenge and try figuring out how to solve some problems instead? If you think people are doing things the wrong way, come up with a better way, or at least keep your mouth shut and let them give it a shot.

They've come a long way (3, Interesting)

blanchae (965013) | more than 6 years ago | (#22629868)

In the early 2000s, I researched the design of a capacitor that would be able to power a 2000 lb car (CRX) at 70 mph for 180 miles then recharge and drive back. The best capacitor technology at the time required an electrolytic cap the size of one of those old wooden oak office desks with each layer being in the order of 0.001" thick. It would of required some major thin film technology. On top of that it would weigh more than the car it was supposed to power!

An alternative was to purchase existing 1 farad supercaps and build the required capacitance through series and parallel circuits to get the voltage and capacitance up. The cost was over $250,000 at the time. The last issue was building a charging circuit that could quickly charge the cap up within 30 minutes.

I also explored the design of making a 200 mph electric dragster. The issue was the megawatts of electrical energy that needs to be transferred within 6 seconds to the electric motors. It was the equivalent of a large electrical explosion. Here's the latest world record electric dragster at 160 mph: Dennis "Kilowatt" Berube [teva2.com]

Detroit spending money elsewhere? (2, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 6 years ago | (#22630010)

Last week we discussed Popular Mechanics' reporting from MIT, but missed one of the coolest breakthrough of all, something scientists have been working on quietly as Detroit spends money elsewhere.


I find it amusing that the summary takes a jab at American automakers in light of the fact that Ford has an on-going partnership with MIT. Whether Ford's funding is supporting this specific project I can't confirm, but clearly they are funding these types of projects. A press release describing the partnership can be found here [mit.edu] .

And just because they aren't investing specifically at MIT doesn't mean they aren't investing in this sort of research.
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