| ORLANDO, Fla., June 5
ORLANDO, Fla., June 5 A breakthrough in the way
energy is stored could lead to smaller electronics, more trunk
space in a hybrid car and eventually clothing that can recharge
a cellphone, according to researchers at the University of
Nanotechnology scientist Jayan Thomas said in an interview
he believes he has discovered a way to store energy in a thin
sheath around an ordinary lightweight copper electrical wire. As
a result, the same wire that transmits electricity can also
store extra energy.
"We can just convert those wires into batteries so there is
no need of a separate battery," Thomas said. "It has
The work will be the cover story in the June 30 issue of the
material science journal Advanced Materials, and is the subject
of an article in the current edition of science magazine Nature.
Thomas's Ph.D. student Zenan Yu is co-author.
Thomas said the process is relatively simple. First, he said,
he heated the copper wire to create what he described as fuzzy
"nano-whiskers," which are naturally insulated by copper oxide.
The microscopic nano-whiskers vastly expand the wire's surface
area that can store energy.
A second plastic-covered layer of nano-whiskers creates a
second electrode, similar to the positive and negative sides of
a standard battery, Thomas said.
The technique could be used to lighten airplanes and
spacecraft, to store excess energy from solar panels, and to
further miniaturize small electronics, he said.
The technique could also replace high energy-density
supercapacitors, sometimes mistaken by hybrid car owners as a
second battery, which provide the quick shot of energy that cars
and heavy machinery need to start.
"You open your trunk and you see a lot of space is taken by
your batteries. If you can just use some of the cables along the
length of your car, you don't need any of that space for
batteries," Thomas said.
He plans further research to apply the same technique to
fibers woven into clothing along with a flexible solar cell,
creating a wearable battery pack.
Thomas is a faculty member at the UCF Nanoscience Technology
Center with joint appointments in the College of Optics and
Photonics and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
(Editing by Kevin Gray)