Energy Storage Potential From Frozen Smoke

There are some exciting technologies emerging around the effort to extend battery life in digital devices. We recently reported about a chip that reduces consumption in digital devices to extend battery life, but what about improving the battery itself? It looks like that innovation may be right around the corner, too. University of Central Florida Associate Professor Lei Zhai and postdoctoral associate Jianhua Zou have just engineered a substance that promises to improve on all sorts of technologies and processes including robotic surgery, pollutant and explosive detection and energy storage.

The substance is part of the “lightest solid” family and is usually referred to as aerogel, or, “frozen smoke”. What makes this substance different from traditional aerogel is that it is created using multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) instead of silica (primary material in sand).

Professor Lei Zhai- UCF

Photo via UCF Credit: Jason Greene

These MWCNT make this version of aerogel material far more sensitive to pressure than its silica based cousin. It’s this sensitivity to pressure that expands the material’s practical use.

Since the nanotubes have a greater surface area, the aerogel they make can store even larger quantities of power. This could have big ramifications on the storage capacity of lithium batteries and large capacitors which, in turn, could wind up improving the storage mediums for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

“This has many potential applications and could really open up new areas to explore that we haven’t even imagined yet,” Zhai said.