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University of Illinois proposes quantum batteries

updated 04:50 pm EST, Tue December 22, 2009

University of Illinois intros quantum batteries

A physicist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus, says a new digital quantum battery can offer a huge increase in energy output and storage capacity. While the gains are theoretical at this point, the concept involves billions of nanoscale capacitors and relies on quantum effects that happen at the atomic scale to boost energy storage. According to Alfred Hubler, the new technology could result in batteries that can hold between two and 10 times more energy that today's best lithium-ion batteries.

In conventional capacitors, voltage applied to conducting plates that are separated by an insulating can cause arcing, wasting the stored energy. The extremely short spacing in the quantum batteries, about 10 nanometers, would suppress the wasteful arcing.

Manufacturing the digital quantum batteries could be done cheaply by using current lithographic technology, Hubler says. A prototype battery could be made in one year, provided the funding he applied for at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is approved. Because of their nature, the devices may also be adapted for data storage.

A professor of electrical engineering at MIT, Joel Schindall, sees promise in the idea of digital quantum batteries, but says there may be an issue with the strength of the nanofabricated materials once they are forced to hold energy. [via TechnologyReview]



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