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What are Barium Ultracapacitors?

written by: Om Thoke • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 9/10/2010

Ultracapacitors are more or less similar to capacitors; they store energy in an electric field between two conductors that are placed close to each other. An electric charge builds up on each plate when a voltage is applied. Here's an insight to this advancement in nanotechnology, ultracapacitors.

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    Introduction to Barium Ultracapacitor

    Sometimes called super capacitors or double-layer capacitors, ultra-capacitor   barium ultracapacitors are looking likely to be a good substitute for, or at least an added feature of, present-day lithium-ion and lead acid battery technologies. This is a parallel plate capacitor that makes use of barium titanate powder as a vital ingredient.

    These are more beneficial when compared to batteries as there are no chemical reactions taking place when energy is charged or discharged.

    Hence, they can be charged any number of times without any degradation. EEstor states that this battery technology can store ten times more power than lead acid batteries (pound for pound) and at only half the cost of lead acid batteries.

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    Advantages of Barium Ultracapacitors Over Conventional Capacitors

    These ultracapacitors are highly efficient and very little energy is lost during charging or discharging (normally less than 1%). They can function effectively in a wide temperature range as they do not depend on any chemical reactions. (Range: -40° Celsius to +70° Celsius). The energy density of these capacitors is currently around 10-20% of that of batteries; however, research and development in the field can greatly increase the energy density of ultracapacitors.

    Precisely, the barium ultracapacitor dielectric has an energy of around 280 watt hours/kilogram; this is much greater in comparison to 32 watt hours/kilogram produced by lead acid batteries and 120 watt hours/kilogram produced by lithium ion batteries. This leads to its wide range of applications in electric vehicles including military purposes. The composition of barium titanate powders can be modified to get a greater increase in the voltage of the ultracapacitors.

    With the use of advanced power electronics and automated production line, a 15-kilowatt-hour energy-storage system can be built for an electric car weighing less than 100 pounds, and this vehicle can be recharged in just about 10 minutes.

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    Key Challenges in Production

    The main challenge in the production of barium ultracapacitors is that there should be no compromise in the stability and purity of barium titanate powders as this enhances the production stability, thus providing improved permittivity and the desired high voltage.

    Better permittivity avoids the leakage of current across the two plates thus enhancing the quantity of charge that can be stored. The increase in the permittivity rating helps greatly in the increase of production rate; high production volumes can be achieved effortlessly.

    Temperature range is one more difficulty faced as the barium titanate dielectric does not perform well at extremely low temperatures. Naturally, the ceramic structure is brittle and develops micro-fractures very soon due to thermal stress which leads to premature failure. This technology also requires high voltage but such high voltage capacitors discharge very quickly even if they are not used. As a result, they require charging too often. Furthermore, safety is also a major factor to be considered, especially with such high voltage levels.

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    Commercial Applications of Barium Ultracapacitors

    The barium ultracapacitors are manufactured in various sizes and each of them has an application in the commercial field. Its application ranges from electric vehicle’s power systems to small back-up power sources for electronic equipment.

    They can produce higher energy pulses than chemical batteries. As a result, they are utilized in tandem with normal batteries to generate the required energy pulses; this also serves as a back-up power source in case of failure of batteries.

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    In a Nutshell

    Nanotechnology has the potential to radically change transport systems, offset the intermittency problem of some renewable energy power generators, and improve the stability of power grids.

    Barium Ultracapacitors have several benefits over the traditional batteries as seen in this post; they can charge and discharge at higher rates with very little degradation. However, the main drawback is with their energy storage capability.

    Even the best ultracapacitors store 25% less energy per pound when compared to the lithium ion batteries. Otherwise, ultracapacitors are the best option for use in electric drive vehicles due to their capability to emit or absorb quick jolts of electricity.

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    References

    EEStor Batteries - EEStor Batteries, Forums, and News

    AutoBlogGreen - More on EEstor's ultracapacitor - can we believe the hype?

    Renewable Energy UK - What are Ultracapacitors?

    MIT Technology Review - Battery Breakthrough?

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