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Combining Batteries and Supercapacitors

In a ‘push and pull’ type of a relationship, supercapacitors and lithium-ion batteries have been in near direct competition since they emerged. Supercapacitors can charge in a few short seconds but carry relatively small amounts of energy while batteries work in reverse.

Both alternatives have undergone a number of improvements but have never quite managed to balance out each other’s benefits. Even the newly discovered high-functioning supercapacitors, which are up 10,000 times more powerful than batteries, have a short life span and need to be recharged at regular intervals.

The ideal solution would be something in between; a hybrid that combines the advantages of both – and science may already have it. Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, Germany, have envisioned a hybrid storage system that combines power with longevity and lasting charge – a work in progress that they are calling PowerCaps.

Head of Energy Business unit at the Institute, Joachim Montnacher says that PowerCaps “have a specific capacity as high as lead batteries, a long life of ten to twelve years, and charge in a matter of seconds like a supercapacitor.” The product also has additional benefits apart from its hybrid condition; it can work in high temperatures of over 85 degrees Celsius, withstand more charge cycles than today’s solutions and has a minimal rate of self-discharge. With these features, the potential of this product is immense.

The complimentary research carried out by the Institute further unlocks the potential of PowerCaps. Studies into battery cells, resource availability and recycling, can be of benefit to the hybrid product that already combines spectacular solutions, and can create even more value.

At Dashboard, we find it incredibly exciting to see researchers develop solutions that combine the best features of existing products. It is a sign of a new wave of technology that is stronger and better, and it looks very promising.