Electrical Business

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Electrical cables that store, as well as conduct, energy?


June 10, 2014 – Imagine being able to carry all the power you needed to power your MP3 player, smartphone and electric car in the fabric of your jacket? Science fiction? It may, in fact, become a reality thanks to technology developed at a University of Central Florida research lab.

Nanotechnology scientist and professor Jayan Thomas and his Ph.D. student Zenan Yu have developed a way to both transmit and store electricity in a single lightweight copper wire.

By being able to store and conduct energy on the same wire, heavy space-consuming batteries could become a thing of the past. It is possible to further miniaturize the electronic devices, or the space that has been previously used for batteries could be used for other purposes. In the case of space-launch vehicles, that could potentially lighten the load, making launches less costly, Thomas said.

Thomas and his team began with a single copper wire. Then they grew a layer of nanowhiskers on the outer surface. These whiskers were then treated with an alloy, which created an electrode. Two electrodes are needed for the powerful energy storage. So they had to figure out a way to create a second electrode.

They did it by adding a very thin plastic sheet around the whiskers and wrapping it around using a metal sheath (the second electrode) after generating nanowhiskers on it (the second electrode and outer covering). The layers were then glued together with a gel. Because of the insulation, the inner copper wire retains its ability to channel electricity, while the layers around the wire independently store energy.

Copper wire is the starting point but, eventually, Thomas feels special fibers could also be developed with nanostructures to conduct and store energy.