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article imageUnlocking benefits from Ultra Fast Carbon Batteries: Interview Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 18, 2018 in Technology
French company NAWA Technologies have developed a new ultra capacitor, the Ultra Fast Carbon Battery. These batteries have the potential to make in-roads into everything we touch from cars, to smartphone cases to the electricity grid.
Ultra-capacitors are the sprinters of the power world. The potential of these devices is to charge and discharge in a few seconds, providing considerable bursts of energy. The levels of power far exceed conventional lithium ion batteries.
NAWA Technologies has created an ultra capacitor that sits between regular ultra capacitors and lithium ion batteries. This is because the technologists have used carbon nanotubes which have a unique coating. The result is five times more power than a regular ultra capacitor.
To understand more about the technology and its application, Digital Journal spoke with Pascal Boulanger, founder of NAWA Technologies.
Digital Journal: What are the major limitations with energy supply today?
Pascal Boulanger: The ability to quickly harvest (recuperate or charge) from an energy source, and also to quickly provide the energy to power a device. Many are working on the ability to store lots of energy, but few are working on the ability to quickly charge and discharge a device or product. Another important aspect is to have an energy storage device that is truly clean and using abundant raw materials. This is of major importance because it orientates the way you design your storage.
The storage mechanism is completely different in electrochemical batteries vs ultracapacitors. With a battery there are limitations around the materials used too (powders are involved as are other rare or dangerous products). At NAWA we don’t use powders or Lithium, we use carbon, which is abundant and recyclable. This leads to safer and more virtuous ways to store electricity...NAWA’s technology offers the solution to both of these limitations in today's energy storage solutions.
DJ: What’s the risk of current energy supply not being able to meet future needs?
Boulanger: The question is perhaps not whether there is enough energy supply as there are abundant resources whether they come from the existing fossil fuels or renewable energy sources like wind or solar. The question is perhaps more how can we ensure that these sources of energy supply are cleaner and more virtuous.
Renewable energy sources address this partially, but need ways to store the energy for shorter or longer duration as most of the renewable energy sources are intermittent by nature. NAWA’s technology is particularly relevant for intermittent and short duration applications allowing for smoother and trouble free use of these renewable energy sources.
DJ: What are the general technological solutions for the future?
Boulanger: We can expect more and more renewable and clean energy sources. We can expect a multitude of solutions that address a variety of challenges, but it also evident that the ability to store the energy is critical to all of the solutions. As a consequence different ways of storing energy are and will continue to emerge, with energy storage technologies splitting into two major groups of those that can store energy for long duration and those that can handle the power or peak demands in a rapid fashion.
NAWA’s technology is especially competitive and inherently the best solution to address the peak demand requirements, be that in grid application or in automotive or smaller applications. It is worth noting that all these technologies are, in fact, complementary. NAWA’s products are of interest both for advances in lithium batteries (through hybridisation of batteries, using a combination of both ultra capacitors and lithium ion) or Hydrogen Fuel cells or even wireless continuous charging.
DJ: How did you develop the Ultra Fast Carbon Battery?
Boulanger: The technology behind NAWA’s Ultra Fast Carbon Battery, the Vertically Aligned Carbon Nano Tubes (VACNT) was originally developed at CEA (the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission) with the technology first demonstrated in 2008.
The work at NAWA focused on the industrialization of the technology. Today NAWA has a pilot line in our facility in Rousset (South of France near Marseille) that is unique and proprietary. This equipment allows us to make electrodes of our VACNT on an Aluminum substrate in a original and unique single step roll-to-roll process.
These electrodes are then assembled together with an electrolyte into cells that we call Ultra Fast Carbon Batteries. We are well advanced in terms of ordering the second generation of our unique equipment, which we expect to have in operation in 2019 delivering product to customers during the secnìond half of 2019. We have also discovered that these electrodes can be used as electrodes for more classical lithium batteries (both anode and cathode, depending on the way we use them) and can provide more power and lifetime
DJ: How does the Ultra Fast Carbon Battery work?
Boulanger: The Ultra Fast Carbon Battery stores the energy on the functionalized surface of the VACNT and as the VACNT have a high surface area (and are vertically aligned), the charge can rapidly enter and leave the structure. This unique feature of our electrodes results in the ultra fast charge and discharge (high power) capability of NAWA’s technology. The VACNT also have the added advantage that they are robust and virtually indestructible which leads to a very long life characteristics (1 million cycles – full charge and discharge of the cell).
DJ: How powerful is it?
Boulanger: The present technology is capable of 100kW of power, which is 50-100 times the power density (kW/kg) of lithium-ion batteries.
DJ: What are the main industrial applications for the Ultra Fast Carbon Battery?
Boulanger: Power tools, automated guided vehicles and forklifts (material handling/logistics), trucks (Kinetic Energy Recovery System – KERS), buses, automotive (48V systems to full EVs). In some applications the NAWA Ultra Fast Carbon Battery will be a stand alone solution providing fast charge and discharge capabilities. In other applications, especially automotive, the NAWA Ultra Fast Carbon Battery will function together with a lithium-ion battery in what we would call a hybrid battery solution (pack).
In this hybrid configuration the NAWA part will handle the peak power demands (both harvesting and releasing the peak power), while the lithium-ion part will take care of the long duration requirements. In other words a battery that has the best of both worlds with the added benefit that because the NAWA battery is especially well suited to handle the stressful part of the usage profile it will reduce the wear and tear on the lithium-ion battery part offering a longer lifetime performance of the complete battery system.
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