Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Applications for ultracapacitors

Investigating possible automotive applications for ultracapacitors, MIT researcher Riccardo Signorelli here is setting up a test of the charge and discharge behavior of a 3,000-farad capacitor, whose stored energy is about one-eighth that of a D cell battery. (Courtesy of Joel Schindall / MIT) Known for storing a short-lived jolt of electricity essential to the successful operation of electrical circuits in devices and appliances ranging from PCs to microwave ovens, cell phones, and televisions, the capacitor is in the midst of a major, ongoing upgrade of its energy storage capabilities. After nearly two centuries in which batteries have been the obvious choice for storing usable amounts of energy, high-end capacitors, known as ultracapacitors, are poised to challenge them in a growing range of applications.

"In fuel cell vehicles, ultracapacitors have demonstrated a higher recovery of energy from braking than batteries, are considerably lighter, have a longer economic life, and are more environmentally friendly in their manufacture and disposal," says Pierre Rivard, president and CEO of Hydrogenics of Mississauga, Ontario, a clean power generation company with a focus on fuel cells.