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Electrical Cables That Can Simultaneously Store & Transmit Energy Developed

A new technology allowing for the creation of electrical cables that can both transmit and also store electricity was recently created by researchers at the University of Central Florida.

As it stands currently, the technology is based around the use of copper wires, but as the technology is developed further the researchers think that other materials could be used, potentially even special fibers using nanostructures that could conduct and store energy.

So far electrical cables are used only to transmit electricity. However, 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. Image Credit: University of Central Florida

So far electrical cables are used only to transmit electricity. However, 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. Image Credit: University of Central Florida

“It’s an interesting idea,” nanotechnology scientist and professor Jayan Thomas stated. “When we did it and started talking about it, everyone we talked to said, ‘Hmm, never thought of that. It’s unique.’ ”

Some of the most obvious applications of the new technology/work include those where space/weight-saving measures are worth the extra costs of the advanced technologies. Examples include: in electric vehicles; in portable electronics; in military equipment; and in space vehicles.

The University of Central Florida provides more:

Thomas and his team began with a single copper wire. Then they grew a layer of nanowhiskers on the outer surface of the copper wire. These whiskers were then treated with a special 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- this 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 special gel. Because the nanowhisker layer is insulating, the inner copper wire retains its ability to channel electricity, the layers around the wire independently store powerful energy.

To put it another way — the researchers, essentially, created a supercapacitor on the outside of the copper wire.

While there’s still a fair amount of work to be done before the technology reaches maturity, it seems pretty promising.

One of the other possibilities for the technology, mentioned by Thomas, is worth noting here: “specially treated clothing fibers being able to hold enough power for big tasks. For example, if flexible solar cells and these fibers were used in tandem to make a jacket, it could be used independently to power electronic gadgets and other devices.”


“It’s very exciting,” Thomas stated. “We take it step by step. I love getting to the lab everyday, and seeing what we can come up with next. Sometimes things don’t work out, but even those failures teach us a lot of things.”

The work is detailed in a paper published in the journal Advanced Materials and Nature.

In related news, researchers at the University of Illinois College of Engineering recently demonstrated — for the first time — that the thermal conductivity (aka heat transfer) properties of LiCoO2 “modulate over a wide range, both coming and going, without the need for an extreme high pressure environment.” What this finding means is that “batteries that can be charged more rapidly, deliver more power, and operate with a greater margin of safety” are now a possibility — the heat generated during fast cycling and temperature variations in general are very detrimental to lithium-ion batteries.

 
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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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