Tell Me More About The New MIT Electricity Discovery

I heard on local news radio about some new discovery at MIT involving nanomaterials to generate electricity. They mentioned it may drastically reduce the size of batteries.

I realize that Google is my friend, but I find I get more meaningful answers from the experts here on the SDMB.

Carbon fiber nano-tube batteries? If so I asked a similar question a couple of months ago and didn’t really get a satisfying answer, so just wanted to subscribe here in case I can get the question answered this time around. :slight_smile:

-XT

In the electronics business, we get these sort of announcements at least once a week. Very few ever pan out. I don’t know about the MIT discovery, but I’ll believe it when I can buy batteries made with it at the grocery store.

According to EETimes, “MIT researchers are using fuel-coated carbon nanotubes as ‘fuses’ for thermowave electrical power sources, which store energy like a battery but promise an unlimited shelf life.” So probably nothing world-shaking yet.

And this is why I didn’t just Google. I have no idea what a thermowave electrical power source is, and would have had to start a thread to ask about that anyway. Dewey Finn could you please explain it? I know some basics about electricity but various things have always conspired to keep me from finding a mentor or taking courses and learning as much as I’d like.

Basically, a carbon nanotube is coated with a fuel. When the end is ignited, the combustion runs along the nanotube, burning the fuel (I can’t find out if the nanotube also burns) at a controlled rate and burn pattern. This produces an intense localised heat and free electrons that are pushed down the conductive nanotube producing a large voltage spike at the end of the tube.

This effect has not been observed before, and opens up new possibilities for research. These would not be batteries, as they are a oneshot generator, and whether the system can deliver controlled power (via controlled combustion) has yet to be determined.

While the electrical density looks good, it may not scale, could be non-controllable or not economically viable. It could just be an interesting result with no practical outcomes.

Si

It would be an excellent choice of a battery for a missile. There would be no loss of charge during storage. After firing, it would deliver a huge amount of electric power during a short time: the flight of the missile.
The batteries used nowadays have a solid electrolyte and a thermal generator (powder). At start, the powder burns, fuses the electrolyte and the battery starts providing high energy for a short time.

Humph!

:wink:

Well, you were the only one to reply. Not that I didn’t find your answer interesting, was just hoping for a few more posts is all. :slight_smile:

-XT

Don’t think this is what you’re talking about but interesting nonetheless.

http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/7183693.html

If you are interested in this kind of thing, this is the web site for you:
http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/03/mit-discovers-thermopower-waves-which.html

I think even a single use high density power source might have applications. A man portable laser weapon where the batteries are loaded like cartridges or maybe a portable defibrillator that you don’t have to wait for it to charge up.