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UK company claims to have opened door to ultra-efficient alternative to batteries

09 January 2017

High-density supercapacitors could offer an alternative to batteries thanks to newly discovered materials that could allow the technology to proliferate commercially. This technology is already powering buses in China but relatively inefficiently. Augmented Optics Ltd is claiming its new polymer technology could make supercapacitors much more efficient, revolutionising operations across a number of industries. 

Image: Tesla
Image: Tesla

Supercapacitors have a number of advantages over traditional batteries such as the ability to recharge mobile phones, laptops or other mobile devices in just a few seconds, and could recharge electric cars in minutes.

According to UK-based Augmented Optics Ltd, a major scientific research breakthrough has discovered new materials that make supercapacitors more than 1,000 times more powerful than batteries.

The company made the findings with wholly-owned subsidiary Supercapacitor Materials Ltd, and the Universities of Surrey and Bristol. It says the new technology could revolutionise operations across a number of industries, including transport, aerospace, energy generation, and household applications such as mobile phones, flat screen electronic devices, and biosensors. 

Supercapacitor buses are already being used in China, but they have a very limited range whereas this technology could allow them to travel a lot further between recharges.  Instead of recharging every 2-3 stops this technology could mean they only need to recharge every 20-30 stops and that will only take a few seconds.

Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX, has previously stated his belief that supercapacitors are likely to be the technology for future electric air transportation. 

Dr Brendan Howlin of the University of Surrey, said: “There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments.”

The ground-breaking research programme was conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey’s Department of Chemistry where the project was initiated by Dr Donald Highgate of Augmented Optics Ltd.  The research team was co-led by the Principal Investigators Dr Ian Hamerton and Dr Brendan Howlin. 

Dr Hamerton continues to collaborate on the project in his new post at the University of Bristol, where the electrochemical testing to trial the research findings was carried out by fellow University of Bristol academic - David Fermin, Professor of Electrochemistry in the School of Chemistry.

Dr Ian Hamerton, Reader in Polymers and Composite Materials from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol said:  “While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, these polymers have many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics.  We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development.”

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