Imperial College London and its partners, including Volvo, have announced a £3.4 million (about $5.44 million) project to develop a new energy storage material that could act as a structural material in cars. The lightweight, carbon-fiber-based material could replace traditional materials in the car’s structure while storing electrical energy. This dual-purpose material could save the weight of separate batteries, increase the strength of the car’s structure, and improve overall vehicle performance.
Dr. Emile Greenhalgh, of the College’s Aeronatical Department, and coordinator of the project, sees other opportunities for this material.
“We are really excited about the potential of this new technology. We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof, its bonnet (editor’s note: hood, to you Yanks.) or even the door, thanks to our new composite material. Even the Sat Nav could be powered by its own casing. The future applications for this material don’t stop there – you might have a mobile phone that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for a longer time without recharging. We’re at the first stage of this project and there is a long way to go, but we think our composite material shows real promise.”
Here, Dr. Greenhalgh demonstrates the material’s ability to capture, store and release energy.
In our entry for October 16, 2009, “Buckminster Fuller Would be Proud,” we speculated about the possible use of graphenes as simultaneous structural and energy storage systems.
Dr. Greenhalgh and his associates seem to be demonstating that concept, even as they work to improve the strength and energy density of their invention.