wires may also work as batteries, Florida researchers say
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[June 07, 2014]
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - A breakthrough in
the way energy is stored could lead to smaller electronics, more trunk
space in a hybrid car and eventually clothing that can recharge a
cellphone, according to researchers at the University of Central
Nanotechnology scientist Jayan Thomas said in an interview he
believes he has discovered a way to store energy in a thin sheath
around an ordinary lightweight copper electrical wire. As a result,
the same wire that transmits electricity can also store extra
"We can just convert those wires into batteries so there is no need
of a separate battery," Thomas said. "It has applications
The work will be the cover story in the June 30 issue of the
material science journal Advanced Materials, and is the subject of
an article in the current edition of science magazine Nature.
Thomas's Ph.D. student Zenan Yu is co-author.
Thomas said the process is relatively simple. First, he said, he
heated the copper wire to create what he described as fuzzy
"nano-whiskers," which are naturally insulated by copper oxide. The
microscopic nano-whiskers vastly expand the wire's surface area that
can store energy.
A second plastic-covered layer of nano-whiskers creates a second
electrode, similar to the positive and negative sides of a standard
battery, Thomas said.
The technique could be used to lighten airplanes and spacecraft, to
store excess energy from solar panels, and to further miniaturize
small electronics, he said.
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The technique could also replace high energy-density
supercapacitors, sometimes mistaken by hybrid car owners as a second
battery, which provide the quick shot of energy that cars and heavy
machinery need to start.
"You open your trunk and you see a lot of space is taken by your
batteries. If you can just use some of the cables along the length
of your car, you don't need any of that space for batteries," Thomas
He plans further research to apply the same technique to fibers
woven into clothing along with a flexible solar cell, creating a
wearable battery pack.
Thomas is a faculty member at the UCF Nanoscience Technology Center
with joint appointments in the College of Optics and Photonics and
the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
(Editing by Kevin Gray)
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