One of the greatest challenges to the widespread adoption of renewable energy and electric cars has been the issue of affordable, high-volume energy storage. To scientists at Penn State however, the solution was clear. In a paper published in a recent edition of the journal, Energy Technology a team from the University’s Materials Research Institute detailed their invention of a flexible, clear glass that can store energy at high temperatures. The material is about one-tenth of the thickness of display glass, and it can be customized to make it suitable for a wide range of applications—including the storage of energy harnessed by wind turbines, and the storage of energy for use in electric vehicles.

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Lead author Mohan Manoharan and colleagues ran experiments with alkali-free glass that varied in composition and thickness. They compared their tests with the energy and power density of current capacitors used in electric vehicles which function to convert energy from the motor into the battery. Most modern capacitors are designed to operate at low temperatures, and therefore need a cooling system that adds bulk, weight, and expense. Manoharan found that a 10 micron thick glass from Nippon Electric Glass (NEG) was able to operate with a high power and energy density at temperatures 180 degrees Celsius and above.

Partnering with NEG and State College-based Strategic Polymer Sciences, the researchers were able to produce roll-to-roll glass with an energy density of (35 J/cc3). The team then coated the glass with high temperature polymers that increased its power density by 2.25 times and allow it to better heal itself.

“These flexible glass capacitors will reduce weight and cost if replacing polypropylene capacitors,” Manoharan said. “They could be used in any high energy density capacitor application—not only in electric vehicles, but in heart defibrillators or weapons systems such as the electric railgun the Navy is developing.”

By advancing materials technology, Penn State is helping to give a wide range of green alternatives a boost in appeal for the mass market. With an ability to store generated energy, electric vehicles and green power have a new ally in their fight to replace fossil fuels.

+ Penn State

Via TreeHugger

Images via Penn State and Mattes.