Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are close to developing ‘body-powered’ car panels, thanks to a technical breakthrough.
The university has developed a lightweight ‘super-capacitor’, which it says can be combined with existing electric vehicle batteries to dramatically boost output.
The super-capacitor is a ‘sandwich’ of electrolytes between two all-carbon electrodes, and is thin yet extremely strong with a high power density.
This allows them to be grouped and stored inside roof, door and floor panels in cars, where they can provide a burst of energy to the EV’s battery for improved acceleration and speed up charging times to just a few minutes.
Eventually, super-capacitors could work without the usual stack of lithium-ion batteries and provide up to 500km of range. They also weigh a fraction of what conventional batteries do, meaning future EVs could be much lighter.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Jinzhang Liu, Professor Nunzio Motta (pictured, top of page) and PhD researcher Marco Notarianni from QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty are behind the discovery, working with PhD researcher Francesca Mirri and Professor Matteo Pasquali from Rice University in Houston, USA.
Dr Liu said the ‘energy density’ of a super-capacitor is currently lower than a standard lithium-ion battery, but its ‘high power density’ - or ability to release power in a short time - is "far beyond" a conventional battery.
Super-capacitors aren’t limited to cars either, with Dr Liu pointing to future advances in power and charging times for other battery-powered devices; such as mobile phones.
Further benefits include cheaper manufacturing costs over lithium-ion batteries, and a lighter impact on the environment if they need to be discarded.
The researchers are part of QUT's Battery Interest Group; a cross-faculty group that aims to engage industry with battery-related research.