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Researchers at MIT strive to make today’s batteries obsolete

A team of researchers at MIT are working to make today’s batteries as extinct as the dodo bird. The researchers have been using acetylene gas to deposit carbon nanotubes onto silicon. The carbon nanotubes are then able to store as much if not more energy than today’s traditional lead or lithium batteries, but can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times unlike current battery technology which fails after a few thousand recharges at best.

The researchers have also tackled the manufacturing hurdle by depositing the nanotubes on silicon much in the same way current silicon parts are made making mass production more feasible than in the past. One major difference, however, is that the nanotube on silicon batteries actually act more like capacitors then traditional batteries. Capacitors, unlike batteries store less energy and discharge rapidly however can be recharged quickly. The team speculates that if they are able to make a large enough capacitor that it will function much like current batteries do.

Not surprisingly, there are some dissenters to the new technology.  A Researcher from the University of California at Davis has his doubts about the feasibility of such technology and doesn't see it making any significant inroads on existing batteries. Boston.com reports:

Andrew Burke, research engineer at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis, said that the new capacitors would have to be many times more powerful than any previously created. "I have a lot of respect for those guys, but I have not seen any data," Burke said. "Until I see the data, I'm inclined to be skeptical." Even if Schindall's capacitors work, he doubts they'll transform the electronics industry overnight. Companies have too much invested in today's battery systems, and it would take years before carbon nanotube capacitors could be mass-produced.



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Skeptics....
By vortmax on 6/27/2006 10:31:11 AM , Rating: 2
What's the point of this skeptic? He's from a completely different location, school, and the funds to support that project are different. Does he think he'll be influencing them to stop their research? What's his real motive? Makes you wonder.

He should probably be spending his time researching something he thinks is better.





RE: Skeptics....
By bobsmith1492 on 6/27/2006 10:43:24 AM , Rating: 2
When you're working on a project, it's easy to get excited about the possibilities without looking at the bigger picture. That's where the whole idea of peer review comes in. Someone else can hear about an idea and disseminate the useful parts from the wishful thinking. In this case, there seems to be a lot of wishful thinking, especially since the development of a new "battery" technology would be extremely lucrative financially.


RE: Skeptics....
By masher2 (blog) on 6/27/2006 1:16:52 PM , Rating: 2
> "What's the point of this skeptic?"

The point is good journalistic practice. Getting both sides of the story is very important.

I've been reading about nanotube-based supercapacitor research for half a decade now. A little healthy skepticism is certainly justifiable.


RE: Skeptics....
By masher2 (blog) on 6/27/2006 1:16:52 PM , Rating: 3
> "What's the point of this skeptic?"

The point is good journalistic practice. Getting both sides of the story is very important.

I've been reading about nanotube-based supercapacitor research for half a decade now. A little healthy skepticism is certainly justifiable.


RE: Skeptics....
By TomZ on 6/27/2006 1:33:38 PM , Rating: 2
I think the problem with the statement from the skeptic is the he sounds very uninformed and doesn't really give any educated opinion. That is why his statements seem out of place.

It would be different if he said, well we did similar research here and ran into such-and-such a problem, or something like that. But instead he basically said he hasn't seen any data/reports and knows nothing about it.

So what is the point of including his views? An uninformed skeptic doesn't meet the journalistic principle of showing both sides of the story.


RE: Skeptics....
By masher2 (blog) on 6/27/2006 1:57:16 PM , Rating: 3
> " think the problem with the statement from the skeptic is the he sounds very uninformed..."

Let me translate his statements from research-speak into plain English:

"I haven't seen their data yet" = "Their research breakthrough hasn't been publicly published or peer-reviewed yet"

"I am inclined to be skeptical" = "I know plenty of other researchers have been working on this problem for quite some time, and that past announced breakthroughs have not panned out"

"I have a lot of respect for these guys" = "but you never know, they could have done it".


RE: Skeptics....
By TomZ on 6/27/2006 2:35:33 PM , Rating: 2
Bottom line is that the skeptic seems to know not any more about the reserarch than you or I do. He just knows "research speak."


RE: Skeptics....
By ddopson on 6/27/2006 2:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
um, yeah. so what. You should be coming to the same conclusions. I did.

Gee, battery like densities on a capicitor. Sounds nice, but where's the data? Nanotubes are a pain in the ass to work with. I don't see this being easy to bring to market.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.


RE: Skeptics....
By Tiamat on 6/27/2006 3:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
"CNT are a pain in the ass to work with" Of what research do you base that on? Maybe they were 15 years ago, but techniques have gotten much better and understanding of CNTs has advanced quite a bit as well.


RE: Skeptics....
By vortmax on 6/28/2006 10:40:50 AM , Rating: 2
The article clearly states that the researchers are still working on it. My point about this skeptic (and skeptics in general) is that they are very quick to point out the negative. It's clear that he has some 'other' motive to make the negative statements.

Peer reviewing is a good thing, no doubt, but current info for this research is not ready for peer review yet. This skeptic jumped the gun. I wondered why, that's all.


Discharge characteristics?
By bobsmith1492 on 6/27/2006 10:21:48 AM , Rating: 2
Hm, capacitors discharge logarithmically; I could see more expensive power conditioning, as the device would have to deal with a broader range of input voltages unlike current batteries, which maintain a pretty flat discharge voltage until they're about to die. It would be doable, of course; these would indeed have to be some pretty dense capacitors, though. Several farads would be needed to do anything useful I'd imagine.




RE: Discharge characteristics?
By saratoga on 6/27/2006 3:17:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
unlike current batteries, which maintain a pretty flat discharge voltage until they're about to die.


This isn't really true. Both systems have comparable curves under realistic load (which will cause the battery voltage to drop off very rapidly with time). Its just that batteries "die" when they still have a lot of power left in them, so you never see the long tail end of the curve.

I doubt the conditioning already used on electronic devices would have to be substantially different.


RE: Discharge characteristics?
By bobsmith1492 on 6/27/2006 5:07:10 PM , Rating: 3
Well, I did a quick Google on it and from this page:
http://www.climber.org/gear/batteries.html#wilson
the batteries sure seem to have a more-or-less flat discharge curve before hitting a drop-off point. It's definitely not logarithmic like a capacitor. The tail-end of the curve you speak of occurs after a battery has been "used up"-it would still have power in it, but the voltage drops off quickly enough that it becomes unuseable without more complicated conditioning (boost/buck regulators or whatnot), which is the same problem you would have right away with a charged capacitor.


RE: Discharge characteristics?
By bobsmith1492 on 6/27/2006 5:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Discharge characteristics?
By TomZ on 6/27/2006 9:36:37 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see this as a big issue, since it is very easy these days to construct highly-efficient buck-boost power supplies that can handle battery/cap input voltages both above and below the output voltage required by the circuit.


Overrated by the media....
By bobsmith1492 on 6/27/2006 4:59:39 PM , Rating: 2
I happened to stumble upon the website of the people actually DOING the project:

http://lees.mit.edu/lees/ultracapacitors.htm

Apparently, they only expect to get roughly half the energy density of LION batteries. I don't know why the media jumps on things like this and proclaims they will revolutionize the electronics industry and make electric cars feasible... while they would surely be better for electric/hybrid vehicles since they could be charged many more times, there is no way of knowing how much they would cost in a commercial version. They're only in the research stage, after all. I cannot stand the sensationistic media. :(




RE: Overrated by the media....
By hechacker1 on 6/27/2006 5:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
Half the desnsity?.. and u provided the link.

"Introduction Ultracapacitors or double layer capacitors (DLCs) are energy storage devices whose operation is based on the double layer effect. By utilizing highly porous carbon material with a surface area up to 2000m2/g as electrodes (as in Fig. 3) commercial DLCs can achieve a energy density (6Wh/kg) much greater than the energy density of a conventional capacitor. However, this figure is much lower than the energy density reached by Lithium-Ion batteries (120Wh/kg). Our analysis shows that the utilization of a matrix of vertically aligned CNTs as electrode structure, can lead to an ultracapacitor characterized by a power density greater than 100kW/kg
(three orders of magnitude higher than batteries), a lifetime longer than 300,000 cycles, and an energy density higher than 60Wh/kg."


RE: Overrated by the media....
By hechacker1 on 6/27/2006 5:24:22 PM , Rating: 2
nevermind. i misread "power" and "energy."


RE: Overrated by the media....
By mpteach on 6/28/2006 1:28:20 PM , Rating: 2
power is the rate at which the energy in the battery can be charged or discharged.

Imagine being able to charge you electric car or laptop in way less than a minute?

Even if fuel cells have a higher energy density they still have the problems of using liquid fuel.

Of cousre alot of this will come down to cost, if these nanotube batteries are cheaper than lithium or at least comparable they will replace them do to longevity and charging times. If they are much cheaper and theyre long life extends to high heat conditions, they would also replace lead acid batteries.


hmm...more sentence fun
By Chapbass on 6/27/2006 10:17:39 AM , Rating: 1
The researchers, which have been using acetylene gas, were been able to deposit carbon nanotubes onto silicon.

I'm pretty sure the which should be a who, and the 2nd been should be a then


i think...




By Brandon Hill (blog) on 6/27/2006 10:20:55 AM , Rating: 2
Corrected


RE: hmm...more sentence fun
By horatio777 on 6/27/2006 10:51:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
making mass production more feasible then in the past.


I'm pretty sure it should read "more feasible *than* in the past", unless time travel is part of the production process.


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