MIT researchers advance carbon nanotube films used in 'super' batteries and capacitors

January 12 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 2

MIT Carbon NanotubesMIT Technology Review is reporting on a breakthrough in manufacturing thin, dense films of carbon nanotubes that could improve electrodes used in 'super' batteries and capacitors used in portable devices, 'smart grids' and electric vehicles.

Energy Storage: Batteries, Fuel cells & Capacitors Batteries and fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity in a controlled circuit.  Capacitors hold electrons as a physical 'charge' and are used in applications that require rapid discharge of energy. All of these energy storage devices are going to evolve in the coming Era of Nanoscale Engineering.

How do you talk about the Future of Energy?
The MIT breakthrough demonstrates the enormous potential of nanoscale design of material components that facilitate energy reactions. It would be a mistake to merely extrapolate our current energy technologies forward based on the disruptive nature of nanoscale energy systems.

The MIT breakthrough highlights two fundamental areas to focus our conversation:

New Properties at Nanoscale Carbon
The electrical and chemical properties of carbon (and other molecules) change when you shift design from the 'microscale' (millionth of meter) to the 'nanoscale' (billionth of a meter).  In recent years, researchers have demonstrated an incredible capacity for carbon nanotubes to capture photons, store electricity and hold hydrogen. Likewise, the performance of metals (e.g. platinum, zinc, nickel) changes dramatically at the nanoscale.

Higher Surface Area at the Nanoscale

Shape changes at the nanoscale.  A 'tube' is no longer just a 'tube'.  At the nanoscale, the volume of a 'tube' decreases and as surface area increases.  That means more surface area for chemical reactions to clean hydrocarbons, capture light and hydrogen, and hold electrons or clean molecules.


More on MIT Group
The MIT group was led by chemical-engineering professor Paula Hammond and mechanical-engineering professor Yang Shao-Horn, developed the nanotube films based on layer-by-layer assembly.

Read more on process details at MIT Technology Review (Image Credit)

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. I do agree that carbon properties do present exciting possibilities for future energy system designs. However I believe the most exciting possibilities involve carbon as the nanoscale framework and adding other elements for custom energy storage designs.

    Posted by: dni24405   January 12, 2009
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  2. Re: dni24405

    Definitely… you’re taking the next step! Carbon still has its ‘sticky’ problem!

    Carbon is the scaffolding and metals and other molecules add the functionality… e.g. Metal organic frameworks, et al.

    Thanks for the comment..! Garry

    Posted by: Garry Golden   January 12, 2009
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  3. Not only do we need to increase the binding energy of the carbon framework by incorporating “sticky” elements, certain elements will need to be incorporated for the catalyzation process.

    Posted by: dni24405   January 12, 2009
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