Charged up by batteries
Profs seek nanotech revolution
by Jay Fitzgerald
Behind the scene: Prof. Joel E. Schindall, the Bernard Gordon Professor of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and associate director of the
Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems; Right: John G. Kassakian,
EECS professor and director of LEES; and Left: Ph.D. candidate Riccardo
MIT scientists say they're close to developing a new alternative to
conventional batteries that could revolutiOnize how cars, cell phones
and other gadgets are powered.
The net benefits of technological improvements to current "ultracapacitors"
would be longer-lasting, faster-charging energy-storage devices that
could compete with batteries now on the market, officials said.
"It would be truly amazing," said John Kassakian, a professor and
director of MIT's Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems.
Kassakian, working with fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology
researcher Joel Schindall and doctoral candidate Riccardo Signorelli,
said the team needs about six months to a year of further research to
demonstrate the device's commercial viability.
If the team then gets commercial backing, the devices could be on the
market within five years.
The technology is built on improvements to ultra-capacitors, currently
used in hybrid cars.
But the problem with existing ultracapacitors, which store energy as an
electrical field and don't require chemical reactions for power, is that
they have to be bigger than normal batteries in order to hold the same
MIT researchers, using nanotechnology, have reduced the size of the
devices by using carbon nanotubes to help store electrical fields at the
The bottom line: smaller ultracapacitors that could fit into cell
phones, flashlights, radios and anything else. The devices could even be
used in larger products, from trucks to missile-guidance systems.
Judy Higgins, a purchaser for Battery Experts, an indiana outlet that
sells nothing but batteries, said ultracapacitors's abiliity to be
recharged in a minute - rather than an hour or more like conventional
batteries - would be a big plus for customers.
But she questioned whether their long-lasting durability - up to 10
years - would be that big of a plus. "People are charging their cell
phones so often," she said.
Researchers fired up over new battery:
a MIT TechTalk news by Deborah Halber, News Offices