Does your laptop battery die out right before you hit send on that important email? With scientists at MIT, Intel and other facilities researching microstructures (i.e. micro- or nanoscale pieces of computing hardware) it may be only a matter of time before nanoscale ultra-powerful capacitors challenge lithium-ion batteries.
Intel researchers have been working on “ultracapacitors with a greater energy density than today’s lithium batteries," according to EE Times. Intel is looking into producing these nanoscale ultracapacitors in high volume manufacturing, meaning that if successful, they may be potentially capable of powering gadgets like smartphones and laptops.
Typically capacitors are used for short term electrical storage (for example, on a solar powered calculator, a capacitor will collect and store electricity in case you go somewhere without light for a short period of time. Depending on the storage capacity of the capacitors in the calculator this will typically be for a few minutes), however ultracapacitors are essentially the higher end models, capable of holding energy for longer periods of time thus competing with batteries.
Capacitors are often lighter weight than batteries and maintain a longer overall physical lifespan. For example, capacitors seen on printed circuit boards (PCB) may last a lifetime. However, they typically do not maintain a charge for very long and this is why batteries are used to power most gadgets. But with ultracapacitors, this may change.
MIT’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity is working on a multitude of micro- and nano- scale manufacturing techniques. For example, researchers at the Precision Compliant Systems (PCSL) Laboratory at MIT are looking into multi-axis nanopositioning systems.
The PCSL describes nanopostitioners as “electromechanical systems... that position and orient components with [nanometer]-level accuracy.” While not directly related to the manufacture of nano-scale ultracapacitors, this technology may be able to include Intel’s nano-scale ultracapacitors on smaller-scale circuit boards, making your electronics smaller.
Nobody knows for sure what the full potential of these nano-scale ultracapacitors are, maybe they’ll drastically increase the lifespan of your laptop or smartphone, but the future sure looks bright.
[via EE Times]