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Powerful Green Energy Nanotubes

MIT Discovers The First Technologically Significant And Economically Viable Alternative To Conventional Batteries In More Than 200 Years.

20100305145954-1A team of scientists at MIT have discovered a previously unknown phenomenon that can produce very rapid powerful waves of energy which shoot through carbon nanotubes, this will greatly improve on energy storage devices called ultracapacitors. The phenomenon, called thermopower waves, was discovered when the scientists coated nanotubes with a reactive fuel and when laser ignited at one end produced a fast-moving thermal wave that propagated down the length of the tube. The heat from the fuel rises to a temperature of 3,000 kelvins, and can speed a ring of heat along the tube 10,000 times faster than normal spread of this chemical reaction. The heat also pushes electrons down the tube which creates a substantial electrical current, essentially creating a new way of producing electricity along with non-degradating (while idle) energy storage. A nanotech battery that is a far superior alternative to traditional batteries which haven’t progressed much beyond the basic design developed by Alessandro Volta in the 19th century.

Carbon nanotubes are submicroscopic hollow tubes made of an interconnected lattice network of carbon atoms, just a few billionths of a meter (nanometers) in diameter and a length-to-diameter ratio greater than 10 million and as high as 40 million. These carbon molecules are widely used in nanotechnology science projects, optics, electronics and in the field of materials science. They are popular because of their resistance to heat and heat conductor properties, extreme strengths, super light weight and their applications in electricity. Carbon nanotubes are part of a family of novel carbon molecules, including buckyballs and graphene sheets, that have been the subject of intensive worldwide research over the last two decades.

A little info on the the difference between batteries, capacitors, and ultracapacitors:

carbon_nanotube_solar_cellCapacitors store energy as an electrical field, making them more efficient than standard batteries, which get their energy from chemical reactions. Ultracapacitors are capacitor-based storage cells that provide quick, massive bursts of instant energy. They are sometimes used in fuel-cell vehicles to provide an extra burst for accelerating into traffic and climbing hills.

Ultracapacitors have been around since the 1960s and can be found in a multitude of electronic devices, from computers to cars. Their advantages over conventional batteries range from a 10-year-plus lifetime, indifference to temperature change, high immunity to shock and vibration to high charging and discharging efficiency. Their disadvantages include the need to be much larger than batteries to hold the same charge, physical constraints on electrode surface area and spacing which limits them to an energy storage capacity around 25 times less than a similarly sized lithium-ion battery and up until recently cost, however lately they have been manufactured in sufficient quantities to become cost-competitive.

Storage capacity in an ultracapacitor is proportional to the surface area of the electrodes. Today’s ultracapacitors use electrodes made of activated carbon, which is extremely porous and therefore has a very large surface area. However, the pores in the carbon are irregular in size and shape, which reduces efficiency. The vertically aligned, single-wall nanotubes in the MIT ultracapacitor have a regular shape, and a size that is only several atomic diameters in width – one thirty-thousandth the diameter of a human hair and 100,000 times as long as they are wide. The result is a significantly more effective surface area, which equates to significantly increased storage capacity.

carbon_nanotubes_MIT_300The MIT discovery would increase the storage capacity of existing commercial ultracapacitors, in any of the sizes currently available, by storing electrical fields at the atomic level. Nanotube-enhanced ultracapacitors would combine the long life and high power characteristics of a commercial ultracapacitor with the higher energy storage density normally available only from a chemical battery. Putting out energy, in proportion to its weight, about 100 times greater than an equivalent weight of lithium-ion battery. This discovery could potentially lead to making micro electronic devices which could maintain their power indefinitely until they are used.

The researchers are working to refine the process to create a new environmentally friendly battery, because most batteries on the market now are made from highly toxic heavy metals, which are very bad for the environment — metals like lead, nickel and cadmium. Batteries made from this new thermopower technology would be completely nontoxic, they’re made of carbon, you could incinerate them, or let them degrade over time, there’s no heavy metal residue.

Imagine environmentally friendly batteries that are up to 10 times smaller and still have the same power output.

The sky’s the limit for this discovery, lead researcher, Professor Michael Strano suggests that one possible application would be in enabling new kinds of ultra-small electronic devices — for example, devices the size of grains of rice, perhaps with sensors or treatment devices that could be injected into the body. Or it could lead to “environmental sensors that could be scattered like dust in the air,” he says.

…. as the green future unfolds.

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4 Responses to “Powerful Green Energy Nanotubes”

  1. Ron Says:

    Good article I need to learn more about batteries and their coming replacements. I will reread this again.

  2. Linda Says:

    Hi Ron … Thanks! Come back again and look at other articles as well. 😀

  3. westwood Says:

    Holy crap that is good news!!!

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Westwood …. It is really neat stuff!

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