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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. 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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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:

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.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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