Imperial scientists develop new material that could double up as bodywork and battery charger
Parts of a car?s bodywork could one day double up as its battery, according to scientists behind a new ?3.4m project.
Researchers from Imperial College London and European partners including Volvo Car Corporation are developing a prototype material that can store and discharge electrical energy, as well as being strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts.
Scientists expect that this material could eventually be used in hybrid petrol/electric vehicles to make them lighter, more compact and more energy efficient, enabling drivers to travel for longer distances before needing to recharge their cars.
In addition, the researchers believe the material, which has been patented by Imperial, could potentially be used for the casings of many everyday objects such as mobile phones and computers, so that they would not need a separate battery. This would make such devices smaller, more lightweight and more portable.
The team is planning to develop the composite material so that it can be used to replace the metal flooring in the car boot ? the wheel well, which holds the spare wheel. Volvo is investigating the possibility of fitting this wheel well component into prototype cars for testing purposes.
Replacing a metal wheel well with a composite one could enable Volvo to reduce the number of batteries needed to power the electric motor. This could lead to a 15% reduction in the car?s overall weight, which should significantly improve the range of future hybrid cars.
Project co-ordinator, Dr Emile Greenhalgh, from the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College London, says: ?We are really excited about the potential of this new technology. We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof, its bonnet or even the door, thanks to our new composite material. Even the Sat Nav could be powered by its own casing.
?However, the future applications for this material don?t stop there ? you might have a mobile phone that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for a longer time without recharging. We?re at the first stage of this project and there is a long way to go, but we think our composite material shows real promise.?
Added the 10 February 2010 in category Innovation News