Email Print Share

"Power Structure" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

A new type of supercapacitor that can hold a charge when it takes a lickin' has been developed by engineers at Vanderbilt University. It is the first "multi-functional" energy storage device that can operate while subject to realistic static and dynamic loads.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Power structure

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 or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.