At present, the rapid development of electric vehicles faces many practical challenges, such as limited charging capacity, low charging mileage and long charging time. With the continuous iteration of automotive materials and the advancement of technology, people try to solve this problem by making automotive materials more durable and thinner.
Recently, the University of Central Florida and the NASA Kennedy Space Center research team have developed a composite material for supercapacitors and batteries. This new composite material integrates the advantages of supercapacitors and batteries, and its stiffness properties are similar to steel, and its mass is lighter than aluminum, which is beneficial to the improvement of electric vehicle power capacity.
The University of Central Florida research team demonstrates the lightweight supercapacitor battery hybrid composite they developed, from left to right: Kosik Sambas Kumar, Jayan Thomas and Deepak Pandey
On January 25, 2022, a related paper titled “Energy Storage Composites for Electric Vehicles: Bifunctional Energy Storage Supercapacitor-Based Carbon Fiber Composites for Body Panels” was published in Small as a cover paper.
”The advantage of this composite material is that it can reduce the weight of electric vehicles and increase the mileage per charge. The idea is to use the car shell to store energy to supplement the energy stored in the battery.” Corresponding author of the paper , said Jayan Thomas, a professor at the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Central Florida.
Specifically, the light weight advantage of this new composite material stems from the layered carbon composite material and its special design at the nanoscale. The researchers attached graphene sheets (vertically arranged) to carbon fiber electrodes to enhance the energy storage capacity of graphene through such a structure, and the stack was connected to electrodes containing metal oxides to increase the voltage and energy density of the device.
It is precisely because of this unique design that the composite material has obvious advantages in bearing impact and bending strength.
In addition, the material contributes to the increase in the range of electric vehicles. The typical range of an electric car is about 321 kilometers, but with this new composite material, its range may be increased to 402 kilometers, which is equivalent to a 25% increase in the range of electric vehicles.
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Moreover, another advantage of supercapacitors can not be ignored, that is, it can make the power of electric vehicles “closer”. Specifically, the new composite material is supplemented with electricity by charging or the car’s brakes, so it can provide the “extra push” needed for electric cars to go from 0 to 97 km/h in under 3 seconds.
Compared with past power batteries, this new composite material is not only non-toxic and non-flammable, so it has the advantages of environmental protection and safety. Moreover, its charge-discharge cycle life is 10 times that of traditional electric vehicle power batteries. “This is a huge improvement over past approaches that have problems with toxic substances, flammable organic electrolytes, low lifetimes or poor performance,” Thomas said.
The weight of the battery is an issue that cannot be ignored in electric vehicles. Usually, it accounts for 30% to 40% of the total weight of electric vehicles. Kosik Sambas Kumar, the co-first author of the paper and a doctoral student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Central Florida, told the media, “Using this new composite material, we can increase the weight of the battery without increasing the weight of the battery. Increasing the driving range further reduces vehicle weight while maintaining high tensile, flexural and impact strength. Whenever you reduce weight, you increase range, so this has huge applications in electric vehicles and aviation.”
Schematic diagram of electrode preparation and energized composite fabrication and application
a, Odd and even position patterns of active material deposition on cross-woven carbon fiber mats; b, Stacking patterns of anodes, and cathode carbon fiber mats to fabricate large-area energized composites
The applications of this new composite material are not limited to electric vehicles, the team hopes to apply the technology to spacecraft, drones, portable and wearable devices (such as smart glasses/VR headsets), and even in the space environment satellite etc.
The team believes that if the new composite material is used in the manufacture of satellites, the overall mass of the satellite can be made lighter. This advantage is also directly reflected in the reduction of launch costs (thousands of dollars each time), and the fact that it can be charged in a short time is also conducive to the operation of satellites around the earth.
In the next step, the team will focus on the research and development and further testing of the technology to promote the industrial application of the technology. It is reported that the actual commercial application needs to pass the 9-level test, and the technology has passed the 5-level test at present. If it is actually tested in space in the future, the 6-level test is required.