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Friday, November 12, 2010

New 'hybrid' batteries last twice as long and charge in seconds

A company called Ioxus has announced the first generation of an ultracapacitor-equipped battery that sounds absolutely game-changing: it's billed as lasting twice as long as your average ultracapacitor, and it charges in mere seconds. There's a catch, though — and isn't there always?

Its first hybrid will store more than twice the energy of traditional ultracapacitors, and charging is done on the order of seconds, rather than hours as in the case of traditional batteries, according to the company.

The device, which is about the size of a C cell battery, won't propel a plug-in electric car. But it could be used for power tools, off-grid lighting, and handheld medical devices, according to McGough.

If used in an ear probe for medical applications, for example, a doctor could fully charge the probe in 90 seconds or partially charge in 20 seconds, McGough said. The company is now providing sample to designers in different industries.

"What we've been able to do is take the fast charge/discharge of ultracapacitors and improve the energy density by designing in a lithium ion electrode and putting it all in the same device," McGough said. The device combines the activated carbon material of an ultracapacitor that stores charge and layers of lithium ion material wrapped in a cylinder form, he explained.

The trade off? Ioxus's ultracapacitors don't last as long as your average one. The company pegs the lifespan of its batteries at around 20,000 cycles, which may sound like a lot until you consider that usually you get millions of cycles.

That lifespan will only get better with future iterations of the batteries, too. Ioxus plans for its ultracapacitor hybrids to find their way into electric vehicles one day — not to power them, but to work with systems such as regenerative braking and give the car a quick burst of energy in a small amount of time.

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