New Super Capacitors Provide a Big Energy Boost for Wearable Electronic Devices

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With the increasing popularity of wearable electronic devices, how to make tiny batteries with high capacity becomes important. Now researchers at MIT have found a new approach that uses yarns, made from nanowires of the element niobium, as the electrodes in tiny super capacitors (which are essentially pairs of electrically conducting fibers with an insulator between). The battery for long-term, low-power functions, and the capacitor for short bursts of high power. Thus a combination is a promising alternative to small-sized wearable electronic devices.
Compared with similar super capacitors using carbon nanotubes or other materials, the niobium yarns are stronger and 100 times more conductive, meaning that niobium-based super capacitors can store up to five times as much power in a given volume as carbon nanotube versions. In addition, the material is highly flexible and could be woven into fabrics, enabling wearable forms; individual niobium nanowires are just 140 nanometers in diameter—about one-thousandth the width of a human hair. Another advantage is that niobium is a fairly abundant and widely used material, which make the super capacitors inexpensive and easy to produce.

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