New material holds big energy hope

New material holds big energy hope
Ray Withers and Yun Liu with the chemical model of the new material.

( —A new material that can store large amounts of energy with very little energy loss has been developed by researchers at the Australian National University.

The material has practical applications in renewable energy storage, electric cars and defence and space technologies.

"Dielectric materials are used to make fundamental called capacitors, which store energy," said Associate Professor Yun Liu of the ANU Research School of Chemistry, co-author of the paper detailing the new material.

The new dielectric material outperforms current capacitors in many aspects, storing large amounts of energy and working reliably from -190°C to 180°C, and is cheaper to manufacture than current components.

"Our material performs significantly better than existing high dielectric constant materials so it has huge potential. With further development, the material could be used in '' which store enormous amounts of energy, removing current energy storage limitations and throwing the door wide open for innovation in the areas of renewable energy, , even space and defence technologies," said Associate Professor Liu.

The material could be particularly transformative for wind and solar power, which can cause problems when fed into the at low demand times.

"Power going into the grid has to balance with the demand for power at any given time," said co-author Professor Ray Withers. "This means that it is very important to be able to store energy until such time as it is really needed."

Researchers have been trying to design new to make more efficient for years.

The design process has proven difficult because the materials need to meet three requirements: a very high dielectric constant, meaning they can store a lot of energy; a very low dielectric loss, meaning energy doesn't leak out and get wasted; and the capacity to work across a broad range of temperatures.

"If you have a higher dielectric constant but also a high loss, the material is basically useless because it doesn't store energy well – it's like a leaky bucket. The material would also be useless if it only performs well at a certain temperature, because it couldn't deal with normal daily temperature fluctuations. It is very difficult to achieve all three of these features," said Professor Withers.

After five years of hard work, the research team has developed a material that meets all these requirements.

"Our success was a mixture of luck, experimentation and determination," said Associate Professor Liu. "When we first found this material we knew it had great potential. It's friendly to the environment, non-toxic and abundant."

Explore further

Engineers craft new material for high-performing 'supercapacitors'

More information: Electron-pinned defect-dipoles for high-performance colossal permittivity materials, Nature Materials (2013) doi:10.1038/nmat3691 ,
Journal information: Nature Materials

Citation: New material holds big energy hope (2013, July 1) retrieved 20 September 2019 from
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Jul 01, 2013
It would have to perfomr a lot better than batteries to be viable in EVs.

Currently supercapacitors have are a factor of 20-40 worse when it comes to storing power by weight than li-ion batteries (i.e. you'd need to lug around something 20-40 times the weight of the already heavy battery packs to get comparable range - which seems like a 'no go' at present).

As a buffer system for th energy grid it looks promising, though. Here weight isn't an issue, and the high number of cycles, quick charge/discharge and large operational temperature range make this very attractive
(With one caveat: supercaps tend to spontaneously discharge rather quickly. So if you want to save up energy over many days to have a week's supply for lean times then supercaps aren't the way to go)

Of course the defence departments should be all over this.

Jul 01, 2013
So what is the material?

Jul 01, 2013

Jul 01, 2013
EVs still need capacitors even though most energy is stored in batteries... So I guess this still helps.

Jul 01, 2013
It's hard to tell from the ANU publicity department's puff piece, but perhaps it's BaO-Nd2O3-5TiO2, about which they published a recent paper. It is probably related to their patent application (from WIPO):
Pub. No.: WO/2013/037010 International Application No.: PCT/AU2012/001109
"(EN)Disclosed herein is a material having formula (A3+ ((4-5n)/3)-δB5+n)xTi1-xO2, wherein 0A3+ is a trivalent positive ion and B5+ is a pentavalent positive ion. A process for making the material, and its use as a dielectric material, are also described."
But my materials science experience is fairly modest.

Jul 01, 2013
Isn't that the same/similiar material that was in the news when the scam company EEstor was making waves about their supercapacitors that would store enormous amounts of energy by utilizing high voltages? (3-5 kV and up)

EEstor was using barium-calcium-zirconium-titanate, and they're using barium-neodymium-titanate.

The problem then was, that the dielectric constant is not exactly a constant over a range of voltages applied to it, so their measurements of high K were basically meaningless in the context of high density energy storage because the measurements were made at low potentials.

The other problem is that capacitors don't have a flat discharge curve, so they always need a voltage converter between the application and the capacitor. It's not like a car battery that stays near 12 volts until it's about empty - it goes from 500 volts to 0 volts as it empties.

Jul 01, 2013
I have to agree with Eikka....that material looks suspiciously like the EESTOR crap they were trying to foist off on investors.
But I thought the EESTOR problem was really a boundary layer issue as well as the potential issue. In other words, it worked ok (at a very low potential) on a single grain of barium titanate, but across the entire "cell", it might as well have been talcum powder.

Jul 01, 2013
This material is useless with respect to energy production, but we can construct an antigravity drive with it.

Jul 01, 2013
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Jul 01, 2013
It's called warp drive by now..

Jul 01, 2013
From the article they point to:

(Nb+In) co-doped TiO2 rutile
In2_3+VO••Ti3+ and Nb2_5+Ti3+ATi (A  =  Ti3+/In3+/Ti4+)

I think Indium is already in low supply as it is used in ITO, IndiumTinOxide, to make transparent conductive surfaces like touch screens in LCDs.

Jul 01, 2013
The other big question is what permittivity have they achieved with it. If the tiny graph at the bottom of the abstract is to be believed, they're claiming something as high as 50000. That would be impressive if it is confirmed.

Jul 01, 2013
Its practical application depends on its conductivity and break-down voltage too. These materials do behave like the mixture "conductor" with "dielectric" (aka many randomly oriented Schottky diodes in series at the boundaries of crystal grains) and you'll get a material which appears as having high dielectric constant, but just under low temperature and voltage ("internal barrier layer capacitor" or IBLC). Also, the high price of indium and niobium would be the problem there.

Jul 02, 2013
The link at the bottom of the article says it's niobium oxide.

Explore further: Engineers craft new material for high-performing 'supercapacitors'

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