Can carbon foams replace nickel in battery?

Can carbon foams replace nickel in battery?

9:23 PM, 20th November 2011
Can carbon foams replace nickel in battery?
Michigan Tech researchers are using carbon foam to develop greener, ultra-long-life batteries.

HOUGHTON, US: Researchers at Michigan Technological University are working on carbon foams as key ingredient for battery. Actually, their design is a twist on what’s called an asymmetric capacitor, a new type of electrical storage device that’s half capacitor, half battery. Capacitors store an electrical charge physically and have important advantages: they are lightweight and can be recharged (and discharged) rapidly and almost indefinitely and they generate very little heat, an important issue for electronic devices. However, they make use of half of their stored charge.

Batteries, on the other hand, store electrical energy chemically and can release it over longer periods at a steady voltage. And they can usually store more energy than a capacitor. But batteries are heavy and take time to charge up, and even the best can’t be recharged forever. On the capacitor side, energy is stored by electrolyte ions that are physically attracted to the charged surface of a carbon anode. Combined with a battery-style cathode, this design delivers nearly double the energy of a standard capacitor.

“In most batteries that contain nickel oxyhydroxide, metallic nickel serves as a mechanical support and a current collector,” said Bahne Cornilsen, Chemistry Professor, who had been studying nickel electrodes for a number of years, initially with NASA support.

Michigan Tech team experimented with carbon foam and suggested replacing the nickel with carbon foam. “Carbon foam has advantages over nickel. “It’s lighter and cheaper and has a lot of holes to fill with 72 percent porosity, Being lighter would give it a real advantage in handheld power tools and consumer electronics,” said Tony Rogers, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering.

The group has applied for a patent on their new technology. Chemical engineering professor Michael Mullins is also a member of the research team. Graduate students contributing to the project are PhD Graduate Matthew Chye and PhD Student Wen Nee Yeo of the Chemical Engineering Department and MS Student Padmanaban Sasthan Kuttipillai and PhD Student Jinjin Wang of the Chemistry Department.

The research is funded by the US Department of Energy and the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative, the Michigan Tech Research Excellence Fund and the Michigan Space Grant Consortium.

© Michigan Technological University News

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