Published: 15 February 2017

Breakthrough research offers alternative to battery power

Ground-breaking research from the University of Surrey and Augmented Optics Ltd, in collaboration with the University of Bristol, has developed potentially transformational technology which could revolutionise the capabilities of appliances that have previously relied on battery power to work.

This development by Augmented Optics Ltd, could translate into very high energy density super-capacitors making it possible to recharge your mobile phone, laptop or other mobile devices in just a few seconds.

It could also revolutionise the use of electric cars, allowing the possibility for them to recharge as quickly as it takes for a regular non-electric car to refuel with petrol and to travel from London to Edinburgh, for example, without the need to recharge.

The technology was adapted from the principles used to make soft contact lenses, which Dr Donald Highgate (of Augmented Optics, and an alumnus of the University) developed following his postgraduate studies at Surrey 40 years ago.

Supercapacitors, an alternative power source to batteries, store energy using electrodes and electrolytes and both charge and deliver energy quickly, unlike conventional batteries which do so in a much slower, more sustained way. Supercapacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly over very large numbers of cycles. However, because of their poor energy density per kilogramme (approximately just one twentieth of existing battery technology), they have, until now, been unable to compete with conventional battery energy storage in many applications.

The technology uses materials based on large organic molecules composed of many repeated sub-units and bonded together to form a three-dimensional network.

Dr Brendan Howlin, of the University of Surrey, explained: “There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments.”

Co-Principal Investigator Dr Ian Hamerton at University of Bristol said: “While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, the technology has many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics. We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development.”

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