Coating can be used to increase the efficiency of batteries

Batteries are an increasingly important area of research. Before electric vehicles are a viable alternative to traditional combustion engine vehicles, the battery packs used in electric vehicles need to improve to support longer driving distances and more performance. Huge amounts of money are being spent on battery research. Carbon nanotubes are one area that is being research heavily for their use in batteries. A group of researchers recently discovered that defective nanotubes were better for energy storage.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have made a discovery that may one day lead to more efficient batteries, solar panels and windows that clean themselves. The researchers grew a forest of nanosize peptides in the range of 100 nanometers. The so-called peptide forests are able to repel dust and water and have the potential for a very effective self-cleaning coating for windows and solar panels.

Both windows and solar panels are less efficient as they get dirty. This is a particularly big issue for solar panels since many of the world's largest solar energy plants are placed in deserts where dust is a very big concern. The researchers on the project include graduate student Lihi Adler-Abramovich and a team working under Prof. Ehud Gazit in TAU's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Adler-Abramovich said, "This is beautiful and protean research. It began as an attempt to find a new cure for Alzheimer's disease. To our surprise, it also had implications for electric cars, solar energy and construction."

Like many discoveries that turn out to have great implications, the peptide forest coating was discovered by accident. The researchers were working on a project for drug company Merck to find a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Adler-Abramovich said, "We are not manufacturing the actual material but developing a basic-science technology that could lead to self-cleaning windows and more efficient energy storage devices in just a few years. As scientists, we focus on pure research. Thanks to Prof. Gazit's work on beta amyloid proteins, we were able to develop a technique that enables short peptides to 'self-assemble,' forming an entirely new kind of coating which is also a super-capacitor."

She continues saying, "Our technology may lead to a storage material with a high density. This is important when you need to generate a lot of energy in a short period of time. It could also be incorporated into today's lithium batteries."

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