Energy

Diamond nanothreads could store thrice the energy of Li-ion batteries

Diamond nanothreads could stor...
Dr Haifei Zhan led a research team in modeling the energy density of diamond nanothread bundles
Dr Haifei Zhan led a research team in modeling the energy density of diamond nanothread bundles
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Dr Haifei Zhan led a research team in modeling the energy density of diamond nanothread bundles
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Dr Haifei Zhan led a research team in modeling the energy density of diamond nanothread bundles

Satisfying the energy needs of a growing population in a sustainable way calls for some inventive solutions, and ones not necessarily limited to the confines of battery chemistry. Solutions to storing energy in mechanical systems instead could include huge towers of swinging blocks or, at the other end of the spectrum, tiny bundles of ultra-fine carbon threads, as a new study from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology has shown.

The researchers behind the study describe their proposed energy storage system as a diamond nanothread bundle, which are tiny structures that material scientists have been exploring for some time due to their unique physical properties. These bundles consist of very fine one-dimensional carbon threads, which can be twisted or stretched as a way of storing mechanical energy.

“Similar to a compressed coil or children’s wind-up toy, energy can be released as the twisted bundle unravels,” says study author Dr Haifei Zhan. “If you can make a system to control the power supplied by the nanothread bundle it would be a safer and more stable energy storage solution for many applications.”

Zhan and his team conducted computer modeling to investigate the energy density of a hypothetical diamond nanothread bundle. According to the results, these systems could store 1.76 MJ per kilogram, which is around four to five orders higher than a steel spring of the same mass, and up to three times that of lithium-ion batteries.

While this superior energy density is a huge incentive to develop a system like this, its safety another. Because it doesn’t involve the types of electrochemical reactions that take place in lithium ion batteries, it avoids the risk of leaks, explosions or simple chemical failure.

“At high temperatures chemical storage systems can explode or can become non-responsive at low temperatures,” says Zhan. “These can also leak upon failure, causing chemical pollution. “Mechanical energy storage systems don’t have these risks so make them more suited to potential applications within the human body."

The team imagines all sorts of uses for such a system, ranging from wearable technologies, to biomedical tools for heart and brain functions, to robotics and others.

“The nanothread bundles could be used in next-generation power transmission lines, aerospace electronics, and field emission, batteries, intelligent textiles and structural composites such as building materials,” says Zhan.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: Queensland University of Technology

11 comments
Gary Tulie
Seems to me that such a system could simultaneously store energy as an ultracapacitor substantially boosting the maximum instant power it can deliver, and giving a useful boost to energy density.
Simon Redford
The safety of any storage system is primarily concerned with the energy density and how quickly it can be discharged. If all the energy stored (3 x lithium-ion) is discharged in fractions of a second, then it is no safer than any other battery and may be less safe if very high currents can be generated, although it is unclear how the electrical to mechanical energy transfer takes place.
notarichman
if it is strong enough; then how about using a balloon to lift it into the sky with multiple strings for the power source? going one step further; into space between satellites and provide communication between them at the same time?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
This would be a good match for a load leveler on a bicycle.
Wombat56
For those that don't have a feel for megajoules, 1.76MJ is just under half a kWh.
paul314
I'm not so sure about the safety claim, depending on how something like this might fail. An expanding cloud of incandescent diamond dust doesn't sound so terribly comforting.
schinud omsub
Why would one wants to use this nanothreads just to store enough? Use it to work like muscle,... and the world will be conquered.
Geoffrey Edwards
energy storage is all about cost. carbon nanotubes and graphene were the last 'wonder' materials that were going to change batteries, but they haven't, because of cost. "Diamond nanothreads"? Really?
JeffK
I'm all for better energy tech but have developed a healthy skepticism of computer modeling. If computer models on climate were accurate some of them would have residents of New York City and other coastal cities wearing hip waders by now. Garbage in, garbage out.
Anne Ominous
I'd be interested in knowing more about how such a system would actually work. This article is kind of a bird's-eye view... from geosynchronous orbit. Not much detail.