Electric Vehicles Could be Revolutionized by Contact Lens Technology

Recharge times and distance covered in one recharge are some of the biggest challenges facing the electric vehicle industry. But now scientists claim that it is now possible to recharge electric cars in seconds and travel from London to Edinburgh without stopping due to a plastic based on soft contact-lens technology which has the potential to solve the challenges facing electric vehicles.

The performance of supercapacitors which are lightweight electronic components that store and distribute high volumes of power, could be dramatically boosted by a polymer that has been developed by researchers at the University of Surrey.

“We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game changing development,” said Ian Hamerton, who tested the technology at Bristol University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering.

In order to deliver a breakthrough for electric cars, he would bet on supercapacitors over batteries, Tesla Motors Inc.’s founder Elon Musk had said way back in 2011. In some parts of the world, supercapacitors are already providing bursts of energy to help propel trains and buses.

Donald Highgate, 76, who helped commercialize soft contact lens technology in the 1970s, said that while taking only seconds instead of hours to recharge, supercapacitors may work alone to create EVs that travel similar distances to gasoline powered cars in the future. Donald Highgate is a director at Augmented Optics Ltd., which also worked on the research.

Highgate said that this latest research seeks to replace the material used as an electrolyte while previous supercapacitor research by companies such as Skeleton Technologies GmbH focused on improving the area of electrode surfaces.

The energy density of supercapacitors could be boosted by anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times, the research has showed.

“This is a war on energy density,” said Jim Heathcote, chief executive officer of Augmented Optics Ltd., a closely-held company based in Royston in Hertfordshire, England.

Next year, a full scale prototype is being planned to be built by along with Highgate and the two together has set up a company called SuperCapacitor Materials Ltd. which is also conducting research in this matter, he said.

Heathcote said that compared with the 100 watt-hours of lithium-ion batteries commonly used in electric vehicles, almost all of the current supercapacitors have an energy density of about 5 watt-hours a kilogram. an energy density of 2,500 watt-hours per kilogram is available for gasoline powered cars in comparison.

“If it’s 1,000 times more powerful, you can use it for buses,” he said. “If it got to 50 watt-hours, it would do general transportation. Anything above that is just blue sky. If this only translates into something 10 times better, that’s still huge.”

(Adapted from Bloomberg)


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