I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.
Allow me to put in a plug for some small, dull grey wafers developed at Vanderbilt University. Wafers that may help pull the plug on the external power sources needed by our electrical devices. Imagine a laptop whose casing serves as its battery an electric car powered by energy stored in the chassis or a home where the drywall and siding store electricity to run lights and appliances.
It's called structural energy storage--integrating energy into the components used to build systems. The Vanderbilt team has shown it's possible to create structural energy storage materials that function flawlessly, even under intense forces.
It starts with their new kind of supercapacitor that stores electricity by assembling electrically-charged ions on the surface of a porous material--instead of storing it in chemical reactions the way batteries do. These "supercaps" can charge and discharge in minutes instead of hours, and operate for millions of cycles instead of thousands like batteries.
The team says the capacity to store electrical energy directly into products will open the door to a world of possibilities as gadgets for health, entertainment, travel and social communication are liberated from their power cords.
"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.