|Next big thing:
Haifei Zhan and colleagues reckon that carbon nanothreads have a future in energy storage.
(Courtesy: Queensland University of Technology)
Topics: Applied Physics, Battery, Materials Science, Nanotechnology
Computational and theoretical studies of diamond-like carbon nanothreads suggest that they could provide an alternative to batteries by storing energy in a strained mechanical system. The team behind the research says that nanothread devices could power electronics and help with the shift towards renewable sources of energy.
The traditional go-to device for energy storage is the electrochemical battery, which predates even the widespread use of electricity. Despite centuries of technological progress and near ubiquitous use, batteries remain prone to the same inefficiencies and hazards as any device based on chemical reactions – sluggish reactions in the cold, the danger of explosion in the heat and the risk of toxic chemical leakages.
Another way of storing energy is to strain a material that then releases energy as it returns to its unstrained state. The strain could be linear like stretching and then launching a rubber band from your finger; or twisted, like a wind-up clock or toy. Over a decade ago, theoretical work done by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggested that strained chords made from carbon nanotubes could achieve impressive energy-storage densities, on account of the material’s unique mechanical properties.