Researchers at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China are leading a major drive to develop the third generation of supercapattery - an electricity storage device that combines the advantages of batteries and supercapacitors - to generate high power with high energy density.
Ningbo is serving as a test bed for supercapattery technology where a team led by Professor George Chen, Li Dak Sum Chair Professor in Electrochemical Technologies, is working on energy materials developed at the University of Nottingham, UK, and related device engineering funded by the Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau in order to commercialise them in China.
The initiative positions the university as an intellectual resource for industries such as car manufacturers and battery manufacturers, as well as research partners who can draw on the University’s strengths and capabilities.
The supercapattery technology that is being developed in Ningbo, takes the unique needs of China’s cities into account and has the wider potential to be adopted as a viable on board energy storage solution for ships.
Ningbo is one of the world’s largest and busiest ports. Given the city’s strategic importance, the port serves as the backdrop against which ships could potentially deploy this unique electrochemical energy storage technologies. Doing so could contribute towards cleaning up Ningbo’s air pollution problem.
Professor Chen explained: ‘While a ship’s primary source of power is from a diesel engine, its emissions are what makes the difference. The emissions are very much diluted by the air on the open seas, but it becomes much more concentrated in the enclosed environment in a port where hundreds or thousands of ships come into dock or leave - we’re talking about large and substantial amounts of emissions, particularly from supertankers with over 100,000 displacement tonnes. So we are trying to reduce that. When the ships come into the port, they should turn off their diesel engines to stop their emissions, and engage their on-board electric power and storage systems.
"Our team is addressing this issue by developing more affordable and durable supercapatteries for electricity storage in the marine environment. We are working with our collaborators who specialise in machine drives. Switching to a hybrid system not only reduces emissions, it will also make your fuel consumption more efficient."
The supercapatteries are based on a modular system, which is similar to batteries. These modular technologies can be combined to build large-scale storage devices, which can be used in homes and mobile phones, among a host of other applications.
The team is also building on their preliminary work on supercapatteries to find a more efficient way of converting solar energy into electricity, as well as examining other research areas on renewable energy.
Prof Chen is welcoming collaborators to join forces with his team to set up physical demonstrators which will show how the supercapattery technology will perform under operating conditions. This will determine the potential of the technology and enable it to reach a higher level of maturity. The demonstrator is an important way of delivering innovation and competitiveness to industry partners.