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"Balance Of Power" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed new micro batteries that out-power even the best supercapacitors and could drive new applications in compact electronics.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: electric arc) You'll get a Big Charge Outta This.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Everything seems to be (Sound effect: voice goes miniature) shrinking. Nano devices, microelectronics, teeny, tiny computer components--everything, that is, except batteries. Now, a team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign says the battery may be about to shrink down and power up like never before. The group has developed the most powerful batteries on the planet and they're only a few millimeters in size.

With current conventional power sources, users have to choose between power and energy. Capacitors can release energy very quickly, but can only store a small amount. Fuel cells and batteries can hold a lot of energy, but release it and recharge very slowly.

The micro batteries the team has developed are the best of both worlds: Lots of power, lots of energy--a whole new paradigm. These batteries owe their high performance to their internal three-dimensional microstructure--the first of its kind.

To give you some idea of how different these micro batteries are, imagine a tiny cell phone battery that could jump-start a car (Sound effect: car starts) and recharge in less than one second. (Sound effect: heart monitor) the possibilities for use in personal medical devices, lasers, sensors and other applications are almost immeasurable.

In a world where almost everything else has gotten smaller and more efficient, we can now truly say "batteries are included."

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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