Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Springs built from nanotubes could provide big power storage potential

Carol Livermore, associate professor of mechanical engineering, left, stands with graduate student Frances Hill in Livermore's lab. 
Photo - Patrick Gillooly
Carol Livermore, associate professor of mechanical engineering, left, stands with graduate student Frances Hill in Livermore's lab. Photo - Patrick Gillooly

Abstract:
Mechanical engineer Carol Livermore and colleagues find that carbon nanotubes, used as springs, have potential to compete with batteries for energy storage.

Springs built from nanotubes could provide big power storage potential

Cambridge, MA | Posted on September 22nd, 2009

New research by MIT scientists suggests that carbon nanotubes tube-shaped molecules of pure carbon could be formed into tiny springs capable of storing as much energy, pound for pound, as state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries, and potentially more durably and reliably.

Imagine, for example, an emergency backup power supply or alarm system that can be left in place for many years without losing its "charge," portable mechanical tools like leaf blowers that work without the noise and fumes of small gasoline engines, or devices to be sent down oil wells or into other harsh environments where the performance of ordinary batteries would be degraded by temperature extremes. That's the kind of potential that carbon nanotube springs could hold, according to Carol Livermore, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Carbon nanotube springs, she found, can potentially store more than a thousand times more energy for their weight than steel springs.

Two papers describing Livermore and her team's findings on energy storage in carbon nanotube springs have just been published. A paper describing a theoretical analysis of the springs' potential, co-authored by Livermore, graduate student Frances Hill and Timothy Havel SM '07, appeared in June in the journal Nanotechnology. Another paper, by Livermore, Hill, Havel and A. John Hart SM '02, PhD '06, now a professor at the University of Michigan, describing laboratory tests that demonstrate that nanotubes really can exceed the energy storage potential of steel, appears in the September issue of the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

Theoretical analysis shows the carbon nanotube springs could ultimately have an energy density a measure of the amount of energy that can be stored in a given weight of material more than 1,000 times that of steel springs, and comparable to that of the best lithium-ion batteries.

With a snap or a tick-tock

For some applications, springs can have advantages over other ways of storing energy, Livermore explains. Unlike batteries, for example, springs can deliver the stored energy effectively either in a rapid, intense burst, or slowly and steadily over a long period as exemplified by the difference between the spring in a mousetrap or in a windup clock. Also, unlike batteries, stored energy in springs normally doesn't slowly leak away over time; a mousetrap can remain poised to snap for years without dissipating any of its energy.

For that reason, such systems might lend themselves to applications for emergency backup systems. With batteries, such devices need to be tested frequently to make sure they still have full power, and replace or recharge the batteries when they run down, but with a spring-based system, in principle "you could stick it on the wall and forget it," Livermore says.

Livermore says that the springs made from these minuscule tubes might find their first uses in large devices rather than in micro-electromechanical devices. For one thing, the best uses of such springs may be in cases where the energy is stored mechanically and then used to drive a mechanical load, rather than converting it to electricity first.

Any system that requires conversion from mechanical energy to electrical and back again, using a generator and then a motor, will lose some of its energy in the process through friction and other processes that produce waste heat. For example, a regenerative braking system that stores energy as a bicycle coasts downhill and then releases that energy to boost power while going uphill might be more efficient if it stores and releases its energy from a spring instead of an electrical system, she says. In addition to the direct energy losses, about half the weight of such electromechanical systems currently is in the motor-generator used for the conversion something that wouldn't be needed in a purely mechanical system.

One reason the microscopic tubes lend themselves to being made into longer fibers that can make effective springs is that the nanotube molecules themselves have a strong tendency to stick to each other. That makes it relatively easy to spin them into long fibers much as strands of wool can be spun into yarn and this is something many researchers around the world are working on. "In fact," Livermore says, the fibers are so sticky that "we had some comical moments when you're trying to get them off your tweezers." But that quality means that ultimately it may be possible to "make something that looks like a carbon nanotube and is as long as you want it to be."

Tough and long-lasting

Carbon nanotube springs also have the advantage that they are relatively unaffected by differences in temperature and other environmental factors, whereas batteries need to be optimized for a particular set of conditions, usually to operate at normal room temperature. Nanotube springs might thus find applications in extreme conditions, such as for devices to be used in an oil borehole subjected to high temperature and pressure, or on space vehicles where temperature can fluctuate between extreme heat and extreme cold.

"They should also be able to charge and recharge many times without a loss of performance," Livermore says, although the actual performance over time still needs to be tested.

Livermore says that to create devices that come close to achieving the theoretically possible high energy density of the material will require plenty of additional basic research, followed by engineering work. Among other things, the initial lab tests used fibers of carbon nanotubes joined in parallel, but creating a practical energy storage device will require assembling nanotubes into longer and likely thicker fibers without losing their key advantages.

"These scaled-up springs need to be large (i.e., incorporating many carbon nanotubes), but those individual carbon nanotubes need to work well enough together in the overall assembly of tubes for it to have comparable properties to the individual tubes," Livermore says. "This is not easy to do."

Rod Ruoff, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, adds that while the theoretical energy density of such systems is high, present ways of making carbon nanotubes are limited in their ability to produce highly concentrated bundles, and so "It appears to me that the 'low hanging fruit' here is to find important applications where the energy density on per weight basis outweighs the energy density on a per volume basis." But, he adds, if Livermore and her team are able to produce denser bundles of carbon nanotubes, "then there are exciting possibilities for mechanical energy storage" with such systems.

The group has already filed for a patent on the technology. Their work has been funded by the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation Ignition grant and by an MIT Energy Initiative seed grant.

####

About MIT
The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Phone: 617-253-2700

Fax: 617-258-8762

Copyright © MIT

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

National Science Foundation Selects SUNY Poly CNSE for Expanded $2.1M Northeast Advanced Technological Education Center: NSF Center Locates to NanoCollege in Support of Flourishing Tech Industry in NYS September 1st, 2015

RUSNANOPRIZE Directorate Announces New Deadline for Nominations Submission September 11, 2015 September 1st, 2015

$200K Awarded to Develop In Vitro Lung Test for Toxicity of Inhaled Nanomaterials: In Vitro Lung Test Designed to Protect Human Health and Replace Animal Testing September 1st, 2015

Hot electrons point the way to perfect light absorption: Physicists study how to achieve perfect absorption of light with the help of rough ultrathin films September 1st, 2015

NEMS

Quantum states in a nano-object manipulated using a mechanical system August 3rd, 2015

Investigation of Mechanical Behavior of Heterogeneous Nanostructures in Iran July 13th, 2015

Weighing -- and imaging -- molecules one at a time April 28th, 2015

Scientists join forces to reveal the mass and shape of single molecules April 27th, 2015

Possible Futures

Sediment dwelling creatures at risk from nanoparticles in common household products August 13th, 2015

Harris & Harris Group Reports Financial Statements as of June 30, 2015, and Announces a Stock Repurchase Program August 10th, 2015

Molecular trick alters rules of attraction for non-magnetic metals August 5th, 2015

Global Carbon Nanotubes Industry 2015: Acute Market Reports August 4th, 2015

MEMS

Iranian Scientists Create Best Conditions for Synthesis of Gold Nanolayers July 23rd, 2015

Robust new process forms 3-D shapes from flat sheets of graphene June 23rd, 2015

Slip sliding away: Graphene and diamonds prove a slippery combination June 10th, 2015

MEMS Industry Group Hosts Its First MEMS/Sensors Conference Session at Transducers 2015: MIG Speakers Will Explore Technology Transfer, Emerging MEMS/Sensors, Manufacturing Infrastructure and Process Technology, June 23 in Anchorage June 3rd, 2015

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

$200K Awarded to Develop In Vitro Lung Test for Toxicity of Inhaled Nanomaterials: In Vitro Lung Test Designed to Protect Human Health and Replace Animal Testing September 1st, 2015

Developing Component Scale Composites Using Nanocarbons August 26th, 2015

Southampton scientists find new way to detect ortho-para conversion in water August 25th, 2015

Revolutionary MIT-Developed Nanotechnology Company Showcases at CAMX in Dallas August 20th, 2015

Announcements

$200K Awarded to Develop In Vitro Lung Test for Toxicity of Inhaled Nanomaterials: In Vitro Lung Test Designed to Protect Human Health and Replace Animal Testing September 1st, 2015

Hot electrons point the way to perfect light absorption: Physicists study how to achieve perfect absorption of light with the help of rough ultrathin films September 1st, 2015

Using DNA origami to build nanodevices of the future September 1st, 2015

Nanotech could rid cattle of ticks, with less collateral damage September 1st, 2015

Energy

RUSNANOPRIZE Directorate Announces New Deadline for Nominations Submission September 11, 2015 September 1st, 2015

Hot electrons point the way to perfect light absorption: Physicists study how to achieve perfect absorption of light with the help of rough ultrathin films September 1st, 2015

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production August 30th, 2015

Nanocatalysts improve processes for the petrochemical industry August 28th, 2015

Aerospace/Space

An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets August 31st, 2015

National Space Society Welcomes Janet Ivey As New NSS Governor: Janet Ivey of Janet's Planet is NOW IN ORBIT as a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society August 27th, 2015

National Space Society Welcomes Geoff Notkin As New NSS Governor August 26th, 2015

A thin ribbon of flexible electronics can monitor health, infrastructure August 17th, 2015

Battery Technology/Capacitors/Generators/Piezoelectrics/Thermoelectrics/Energy storage

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production August 30th, 2015

CWRU researchers efficiently charge a lithium-ion battery with solar cell: Coupling with perovskite solar cell holds potential for cleaner cars and more August 27th, 2015

'Diamonds from the sky' approach turns CO2 into valuable products August 19th, 2015

Drexel engineers 'sandwich' atomic layers to make new materials for energy storage August 15th, 2015

Grants/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

RUSNANOPRIZE Directorate Announces New Deadline for Nominations Submission September 11, 2015 September 1st, 2015

$200K Awarded to Develop In Vitro Lung Test for Toxicity of Inhaled Nanomaterials: In Vitro Lung Test Designed to Protect Human Health and Replace Animal Testing September 1st, 2015

Seeing quantum motion August 30th, 2015

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production August 30th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic