Batteries have always been one of the biggest problems when developing small lightweight electronic devices. They're big and bulky, taking up a serious chunk of the real estate inside your smartphone or tablet. So imagine if they could be dispensed with, and replaced by a new type of internal wiring that can actually store power inside the body of the wire itself. That's the goal of a team of nanotechnology researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Professor Jayan Thomas and Ph.D. student Zenan Yu have developed a way to cover copper wires with a sheath made from alloy nanowhiskers, which then become one of the two electrodes needed to create a supercapacitor. A second tube with nanowhiskers is then added, with a thin plastic boundary layer placed between the two sheaths to complete the capacitor. The inner copper core of the wire still retains its ability to conduct electricity, only now with the added ability to also store that energy.
Dr. Thomas says that the savings in bulk and weight could be beneficial in electric cars and especially in space vehicles, while a scaled down version could be used in smartphones and other personal gadgets. So far the team has been focusing on electrical wires, but they claim the technology could also be developed to work with fabric fibers so you could make power generating clothing.
I just hope all of those supercapacitor wires don't start to lose their ability to hold a charge as they get older, because it would really suck if you had to rip them out and install new ones in your device when after just a few hundred recharge cycles: it's probably not as easy as replacing a traditional battery, as inconvenient as that may be.