Gallery: Super Batteries Made From ‘Frozen Smoke’ May be Here Soon


Over the years we’ve seen batteries made from an incredible range of materials – from mud to coffee to water. However researchers from the University of Central Florida may have found the lightest (and most bizarre) battery material yet – ‘frozen smoke’, also known as Aerogel. One of the world’s lightest solids, aerogel contains multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) which each one several thousands thinner than human hair. The researchers, Associate Professor Lei Zhai and Postdoctoral Associate Jianhua Zou, believe that this material could soon become the best energy storage material for capacitors and batteries.

Due to its carbon nanotube structure, the battery material would be able to detect even the slightest changes in pressure or temperature. As they also make up a large surface area, the nanotubes would be better able to store energy than conventional batteries.

“This has many potential applications and could really open up new areas to explore that we haven’t even imagined yet,” Zhai said. There is already speculation that the material could be used in super-capacitors, where the multi-walled carbon nanotubes would allow huge amounts of energy discharged in short bursts.

Either way, we definitely think they should use the name ‘frozen smoke’ over aerogel.

+ University of Central Florida

Via Eurekalert


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  1. kedwa30 April 5, 2011 at 10:20 am

    The author saying that there is speculation that this could be used in super capacitors and then posters saying that this already has been and is being used in capacitors reminds me of the media coverage of Dolly the cloned sheep and how they were saying that she was the first clone ever when it simply was not so. (Lab mice have been clones for decades before Dolly.)
    Edison was not the first to make a light bulb either, but he is remembered for his light bulb because he made the power system to light it as well and made it all affordable.
    For the sake of the world I hope that any battery that is ten times more efficient than current batteries will not be priced ten times or greater than current batteries. Making great technology available only to the rich tends to widen the gap between the rich and the working class as well as stifles the global benefits which can only be realized if everyone has access to the technology.

  2. m61 March 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Aerogel “frozen smoke” supercapacitors were developed in the 1990’s and PowerStor won an award back then for R&D Top 100 Developments. They have been on the market since the 1990’s and are now sold under the PowerStor brand by Cooper Technologies. Due to the high surface area of the material, up to 2000 m2/g, they can only be used in supercapacitors. High enery lithium-ion batteries use low surface area carbon, < 1m2/g due to reactions of electrolytes on the surface. Reality check: This material will never be used in high energy batteries.

  3. Brian H March 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Actually, the memory biz has become a commodity market, with very thin margins. As for “ideal computer”, the $2600 system was far from that. There is no question that the digital device landscape has seen massive deflation over the subsequent decades: much bigger bang for the buck. With my current $120 used 8-yr old system I can do things I didn’t even dream of back in the late ’80s.

    Memory now, btw, costs <0.08¢/MB, an improvement of about 1000X.

  4. ecologicdesign March 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Aerogel has been used as an insulator in clothing and as building insulation for many years. It will be interesting to see how this technology can be applied elsewhere hopefully bringing dow the costs.

  5. tkjtkj March 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    BrianH: the chip you bought for $75 was, in that era, replaced by a chip that cost $85 .. it had advantages, yes (more capacity) but had enormously higher profits for the maker. Believe it or not, today’s ‘ideal computer’ costs about the same as it did a decade ago: about $5000. Price did not drop. Profits exploded. Advantages to the replacement technologies were not just to the customer but mostly to the chipmaker, etc. Rather than calculate ‘price per megabyte’, one ust use ‘price per job done’, for that’s what one is buying: a slolution to that day’s problem. I stand by my earlier comment, and thank you for raising the level of its discussion 😉

  6. sivaselva March 12, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Hope this researcher can make it affordable and also produce this in commercial scale. This can solve lot of energy needs of poor people. Power to the people

  7. squidflakes March 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I hope the materials researchers are able to find an easier more cost-effective way of making strong aerogel. Right now, a .25kg monolith of the stuff takes me about 4 days and $35 worth of materials to get right. On top of that, I’ve yet to be able to work out a may of making it stand up to even the slightest bit of water. If it is too humid out, my aerogels fall apart.

  8. ParisDoom March 7, 2011 at 5:51 am

    That’s really interesting. in fact the weight is not a problem. depending on the use we will make of it.

    and the biggest need we have right now is not mobile batteries (such as li-on for cars and mobile devices)
    What we need is batteries to keep energy from renewables. imagine if we could charge our batteries in the summer sun for the winter…

    To : Brian H
    you are right only if the kwh/kg of those batteries are the same than usual ion batteries : 100 wh/kg but if the density is 1000 higher …

    to tkjtkj :
    you are so right !

  9. kopolov March 7, 2011 at 3:11 am

    I hope this material can be applied to the electric vehicle industry. The major drawback in electric vehicles is the battery capacity. Once its solved, one of the major blocks on a way to a cleaner planet is solved.

  10. Brian H March 7, 2011 at 12:16 am

    so, the entire computer industry never happened, then?
    25 yrs ago I happily paid only $2600 for an XT with 1MB of RAM! and purchased extra “expanded memory” for only $75/MB!

  11. tkjtkj March 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Error correction:

    In my previous post, the last sentence
    should read:

    “To dream that a new product with serious advantages over its existing competition will sell for less than its competitors is just that: a dream. .. a dream whose time never was.

  12. nick0 March 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Aerogel capacitors have already existed for several years, they’re kind of expensive but reasonable considering the charge they can hold. $29 one 50F 2.5V capacitor. Making working batteries is new though.

  13. Brian H March 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Battery energy density is usually measured in kwh/kg. But if this stuff requires 1000 cu. m. for a kg., it’s unusable!

  14. Miltek March 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Since Aerogels are made up of 90+% air, they are extremely lightweight for their size. This could/should be a big deal for battery technologies that are needing to be mobile, like in the transportation industry.

  15. tkjtkj March 6, 2011 at 7:57 am

    alexgh has a serious misunderstanding of how markets work:

    Any new device that has any distinct advantage to the consumer will be priced at a level *higher* than device whose market share the new product seeks to take over. This has nothing to do with how more inexpensively the new device can be manufactured. The consumer will spend the extra bucks because of the advantage, other things being equal. To dream that a new product with serious advantages over its existing competition is just that: a dream. .. a dream whose time never was.

  16. bwatkins March 5, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    It should considering aerogel and multi-walled carbon nanotubes are some of the cheapest materials on the planet.

  17. alexgh March 5, 2011 at 3:56 am

    I really hope this new battery technology will also cost less than conventional batteries.

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