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TRANSPORT: BATTERIES 


polymers age and show markedly improved conductivity with time – for reasons not currently understood, they self-organise over 30 days (Fig 1). The patents filed cover the following:


 ConductingHydrophilicMaterial + Amino Acid;  ConductingHydrophilicMaterial + PEDOT;  ConductingHydrophilicMaterial + PEDOT + Imidazole(s); and  Application areas (including bi-directional neural implants). The proprietary materials developed in


this project are electrically active hydrophilic polymers: an industrial grade version based on a hydrophilic structure amalgamated with a transparent conducting polymer called PEDOT:PSS and a higher performance polymer where Imidazole is used instead of the PEDOT:PSS. Imidazole is an organic compound with the formula C3N2H4. “These polymers also havemany other


possible uses in which tough, flexible conductingmaterials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics,” Hamerton says, now Reader in Polymers and CompositeMaterials fromthe Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol. “Thematerials can be processed on a large scale by low-cost printing technology, offering excellent mechanical properties and the ability of incorporating a large variety of functional molecular structures.” “We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra high-energy density storage devices,” says Jim Heathcote, Chief Executive of both Augmented Optics and SupercapacitorMaterials.


SEISMIC IMPACT? While (almost) everyone recognises the need to replace fossil fuels, as a result of their limited reserves and their effects on climate change, moves to alternatives, such as electric vehicles, have progressed slowly because of practical limitations. Nevertheless, considerable investment


is going into the development of battery systems, particularly lithium ion systems, and incremental improvements are improving the technology. Tesla’s Nevada facility will, at full capacity, produce enough batteries to power 500,000 electric cars a year by 2020. This is more than the global total lithium ion battery production for 2013. Lithium is currently the most viable alternative to petrol and in consumer


46 /// Environmental Engineering /// December 2016 Material


RESISTANCE OF A STANDARD TEST SAMPLE at Date


Bio-medical Hydro-polymer inwater


Bio-medical Hydro-polymer in saline


Industrial Hydro-polymer inwater


Industrial Hydro-polymer in H2SO4


100,000


September 2014 -


120,000 1,350


June 2015 554


June 2015 135


40 October 2015


Resistance (ohms) Resistance (ohms) Resistance (ohms) at Date


at Date


Base Hydrophilic Polymer -- 120,000 inwater


950


February 2016 74.6


February 2016 56.8


September 2014 September 2015 February 2016 -


15.6 January 2016


Industrial Hydro-polymer -- 4.06 in Brine


USEFUL ENERGY DENSITY APPLICATIONS BY


5Wh/kg Current supercapacitors 25Wh/kg Stationary energy storage 50Wh/kg General transport 100Wh/kg Lithiumion batteries 2,500Wh/kg Petrol 5,000Wh/kg Likely projected level for newmaterials


electronics. And it is attracting massive investment. According to global estimates by the US Geological Survey, there is enough lithium in the world – 13.5 million metric tonnes of it – to last more than 350 years in batteries. Says Nevada Energy Metals executiveMalcolm Bell: “It may be time to start worrying about a shortage of lithium, but it’s not a question of whether we have enough lithium – it’s a question of tapping into new reserves.”


February 2016 Now, the advent of a new system which


is not only able to displace batteries, but be a direct and viable competitor to the petrol engine, has potential repercussions almost too large to contemplate. Reliance on oil-based transport could disappear, if not overnight, within a relatively short period of time. While oil would still be needed for lubrication purposes, and to manufacture polymers, including those of which the supercapacitors themselves are made, demand for this commodity could shrink markedly. While many would say that burning


oil for transport is a heinous waste of a valuable commodity, moving away from it would have major implications for the world order. What effects might it have on the economies of oil-rich countries, such as the USA and theMiddle East, and how might they react to the new competition? EE


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