Belonging to the family of the world’s lightest solids, a new material invented by two researchers from the University of Central Florida, Assoc. Prof. Lei Zhai and postdoctoral associate Jianhua Zou could constitute the world’s best energy storage material for supercapacitors and lithium batteries.
The material is an aerogel, aka “frozen smoke,” and contains multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT). Each carbon nanotube is several thousands thinner than human hair.
Along with enabling the possibility of using the MWCNT for detecting even the slightest changes in pressure or temperature, the tubes make up a huge surface area and could store the energy produced by solar panel fields throughout the day or by wind farms by night much better than currently used batteries are able to.
Supercapacitors, though already using active carbon as their main ingredient, could benefit from the multiwalled carbon nanotubes. They are best suited in places where there’s need for huge amounts of energy discharged in short bursts.
“This has many potential applications and could really open up new areas to explore that we haven’t even imagined yet,” Zhai said. Other uses could be the fine detection of explosives and toxins in water sources, with a sensitivity that has never been seen before.