Super-Capacitors! The next gen batteries.

Hi Everyone. So here we are living in 21st century and enjoying all the facilities this era has to offer. For an instance we have the mobiles in which we can communicate with each other and mostly near me it’s used for playing games and stuff like chatting. I’m sure near you the story of mobile will be the same. Then moving to next thing we have laptops, in which we can do all our office work and some other things, like playing games (most important for me) , and for students doing projects, and like for writing a blog like i’m doing right now. There are many other examples like your remotes, cars and tons of other items. But How does they function exactly. I’m sure most will say mobiles run on OS, hardware likewise computers run on OS, hardware etc. All this is true but we have the most essential thing here is the power source. In this era of technology everything runs on the power source or say battery. I’m sure that all of us have faced a situation in which we need our phone most but the juice runs out. There are tons of mishaps that are possible due to a power failure like in hospitals power failure could be fatal, If your petrol runs out that can be troublesome, and in any emergency situation the phone battery may run out and many more.. so some of them can be less troublesome than others but in the end the conclusion is that we need something through which this small or large problems won’t occur. So the science has something to offer regarding this problem and that will be a great help to mankind. so the name of that great invention is Super capacitors. So what basically is a super capacitor. I know for geeks like me the word super means something interesting and for some people who fear physics it seems something very difficult to understand but trust me if you understand what is the science behind this so you’ll be amazed and maybe this will ignite a spark in you and we’ll see brand new Einstein among us. So let’s start with basics. so to understand this super capacitor we have to understand what are superconductors and how the actually work. so “hajimeru koto” (-Japanese for ‘To start’).

What Is A Superconductor?

A superconductor is a material that can conduct electricity or transport electrons from one atom to another with no resistance. simply said it has no loss of electricity in it or it has zero internal resistance. So there is a condition which is required to reach this state which is “The Super conducting material have to reach a temperature point which is called Critical Temperature (Tc) “. So on reaching this Critical Temperature the material will show zero resistance towards the electrical signal. Unfortunately, most materials must be in an extremely low energy state (very cold) in order to become superconductive. So this is why we don’t have much of these superconductors at present. Some examples of superconductors are –
1.Mercury was historically the first to show superconductivity, and it is an example of a Type I superconductor. Its practical usefulness is limited by the fact that its critical magnetic field is only 0.019 T, so the amount of electric current it can carry is also limited.
(Tc=4.2k).

2.The superconducting transition of niobium-tin was observed by measuring the inductance of a coil which was wrapped around the sample. At the superconducting transition, the magnetic field is expelled by the Meissner effect and the inductance drops.

This measurement was made by immersing the coil in liquid hydrogen and measuring the inductance as a function of temperature.

(Tc=18k).

 For some more examples refer http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Solids/scex.html#c1

A word about Batteries …

If you think electricity plays a big part in our lives today, you “ain’t seen nothing yet”! In the next few decades, our fossil-fueled cars and home-heating will need to switch over to electric power as well if we’re to have a hope of averting catastrophic climate change. Electricity is a hugely versatile form of energy, but it suffers one big drawback: it’s relatively difficult to store in a hurry. Batteries can hold large amounts of power, but they take hours to charge up. Capacitors, on the other hand, charge almost instantly but store only tiny amounts of power. In our electric-powered future, when we need to store and release large amounts of electricity very quickly, it’s quite likely we’ll turn to supercapacitors(also known as ultracapacitors) that combine the best of both worlds. What are they and how do they work? Let’s take a closer look!

Batteries and capacitors do a similar job storing electricity but in completely different ways.

Batteries have two electrical terminals separated by a chemical substance called an electrolyte. When you switch on the power, chemical reactions happen involving both the electrodes and the electrolyte. These reactions convert the chemicals inside the battery into other substances, releasing electrical energy as they go. Once the chemicals have all been exhausted, the reactions stop and the battery is dead. In a rechargeable battery, such as a lithium-ion power pack used in a laptop computer so the reactions can happily run in either direction so you can usually charge and discharge hundreds of times before the battery needs replacing.

Capacitors use static electricity (electrostatics) rather than chemistry to store energy. Inside a capacitor, there are two conducting metal plates with an insulating material called a dielectric in between them—it’s a dielectric sandwich, if you prefer! Charging a capacitor is a bit like rubbing a balloon on your jumper to make it stick. Positive and negative electrical charges build up on the plates and the separation between them, which prevents them coming into contact, is what stores the energy. The dielectric allows a capacitor of a certain size to store more charge at the same voltage, so you could say it makes the capacitor more efficient as a charge-storing device.

Capacitors have many advantages over batteries: they weigh less, generally don’t contain harmful chemicals or toxic metals, and they can be charged and discharged zillions of times without ever wearing out. But they have a big drawback too: kilo for kilo, their basic design prevents them from storing anything like the same amount of electrical energy as batteries.

What is a supercapacitor?

Supercapacitors are electronic devices which are used to store extremely large amounts of electrical charge. They are also known as double-layer capacitors or ultracapacitors. Instead of using a conventional dielectric, supercapacitors use two mechanisms to store electrical energy: double-layer capacitance and pseudocapacitance. Double layer capacitance is electrostatic in origin, while pseudocapacitance is electrochemical, which means that supercapacitors combine the workings of normal capacitors with the workings of an ordinary battery. Capacitances achieved using this technology can be as high as 12000 F. In comparison, the self-capacitance of the entire planet Earth is only about 710 µF, more than 15 million times less than the capacitance of a supercapacitor. While an ordinary electrostatic capacitor may have a high maximum operating voltage, the typical maximum charge voltage of a supercapacitor lies between 2.5 and 2.7 volts. Supercapacitors are polar devices, meaning they have to be connected to the circuit the right way, just like electrolyte capacitors. The electrical properties of these devices, especially their fast charge and discharge times, are very interesting for some applications, where supercapacitors may completely replace batteries.

Uses of supercapacitors.

Magnetic Levitation


Above: The Yamanashi MLX01 MagLev test vehicle achieved a speed of 343 miles per hour on April 14, 1999.

So-called ‘MagLev’ trains such as the Yamanashi MLX01 train show above have been under development in Japan for the past two decades – the train floats above the track using superconducting magnets; this eliminates friction and energy loss as heat, allowing the train to reach such high speeds.

Visit the MagLev R&D Department Home Page to find out more about the project.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


Above: MRI scan of a human skull

MRI is a technique developed in the 1940s that allows doctors to see what is happening inside the body without directly performing surgery. The development of superconductors has improved the field of MRI as the superconducting magnet can be smaller and more efficient than an equivalent conventional magnet.
Check out the University of Texas Austin’s NMRI Lab for more information and links.

Synchrotrons and Cyclotrons (Particle Colliders)

Particle Colliders like CERN‘s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are like very large running tracks that are used to accelerate particles (i.e. eletrons, positrons, hadrons and more) to speeds approaching the speed of light before they are collided with one another or other atoms, usually to split them (this was how many sub-nuclear particles such as taus and neutrinos were discovered).
They do this by cycling the particle using magnetic fields, continually increasing the speed of the particle.
The first project to use superconducting magnets was the proton-antiproton collider at Fermilab.

Fast Electronic Switches

Type II superconductors can be used to as very fast electronic switches (as they have no moving parts), due to the way in which a magnetic field can penetrate into the superconductor – this has allowed Japanese researchers to build a 4-bit computer microchip (compared to today’s 32-bit and 64-bit processors) operating at about 500 times the speed of current processors, where heat output is currently a major problem with typical speeds approaching the 1GHz mark.
An article in Superconductor Week focuses upon the efforts of NASA, DARPA and others to build a ‘petaflop’ (a thousand-trillion floating point operations per second – compared to today’s ‘teraflop’ (1 trillion Flops per sec) computers) computer using superconductor technology.

There are still many other uses to list but we’ll leave that for now. so now the question is that where is this supercapacitor thing? So if i were to give an 1 word answer so the most preferable would be it is still in process. Some developed countries are replacing the old and conventional batteries with this one but for India it is going to take a heck of time. But lets see what will be the future of supercapacitor in India.

So maybe soon enough we’ll have supercapacitor in our phones, with that hope in my heart, bye see ya next time!!

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