Breakthrough composite material could let body panels serve as car battery

Breakthrough composite material could let body panels serve as car battery
Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a composite material that can not only store and discharge electrical energy but which is strong and lightweight enough to form part of a car's structure.

The team is currently collaborating with Volvo to develop the material for use in the automotive industry, but says it could also be used as a new type of casing for smartphones and tablets to store electrical energy and act like a battery.

Project coordinator Dr Emile Greenhalgh, from Imperial's Department of Aeronautics, said: "We are really excited about the potential of this new technology. We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof, its bonnet or even the door, thanks to our new composite material. The future applications for this material don't stop there – you might have a mobile phone that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for a longer time without recharging. We're at the first stage of this project and there is a long way to go, but we think our material shows real promise."

The composite material being developed is made of carbon fibres, a polymer resin and a thin sheet of glass which separates the electrodes. It is said to be able to store and discharge large amounts of energy much more quickly than conventional batteries. In addition, the material does not use chemical processes, making it quicker to recharge than conventional batteries.

"The challenge throughout this project has been to make a material that simultaneously stores electrical energy and gives good mechanical properties," said Dr Greenhalgh. "We've now made a very big breakthrough – we've developed a very new material which does both those things at the same time. This is a really exciting project that's unearthing new ground in materials development."

Laura Hopperton

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Very intersting technology, but will it actually take off I wonder? The material has been in development since 2010, so I would imagine the next few years will be crucial. Fingers crossed for the Imperial team.

Comment Mark Reynolds, 10/07/2012

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