Energy-Storing Carbon Composite Could Revolutionize EVs, Spacecrafts, and Aviation

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new outer shell of layer carbon composite material that acts as an energy exchange medium. To achieve this, the scientists created positively and negatively charged carbon fiber layers and then stacked and attached them in an alternating pattern, essentially forming a supercapacitor.

The graphene sheets on the carbon fiber layers are the elements that store the energy, while the metal oxides on the electrodes increase the energy density and give this atypical battery charging and discharging properties. In the following video, a team member demonstrates how a small piece of that novel sheet can power up an electric toy car.

The practical potential that opens up from this is virtually limitless, directly affecting the EV industry, aerospace, and aviation. Apart from the energy storing proprietaries of this new composite, its creators underline its high tensile strength, lightness, and impressive bending strength. These are magical properties for anything that moves, especially EV cars whose cell packs account for 30-40% of their total weight.

Using such a composite as a shell on these cars would help reduce the mass by removing some of the batteries, or boost the performance and range by harvesting that additional energy when needed. The team envisions similar concepts for aircraft or cubic satellites that currently use batteries. As they explain, these small sats could charge in minutes when they orbit on the solar-lit side of the planet. Such a step would keep the cubsat mass to very low levels, fundamentally changing space launch economics.

The UCL team claims the product is currently in readiness level 5, with the ultimate being level 9, so it’s one step before real environment testing and several steps before commercial launch. That means we’re still a couple of years away from seeing this composite in actual products, but hopefully, the amazing test results and marketing prospect will help accelerate its roll-out.

Bianca Van der Watt

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