Nanocrystal brings clear benefits

Carnegie Mellon researchers have discovered a nanocrystalline material that could provide cheaper, more stable, better quality energy storage for industrial and portable consumer electronic products.

Materials Science and Biomedical Engineering Professor Prashant Kumta led the study. He said the discovery has important implications for increasing the longevity of rechargeable car batteries, fuel cells and other battery-operated electronic devices.

“We have found that synthesis of nanostructured vanadium nitride and controlled oxidation of the surface at the nanoscale is key to creating the next generation of supercapacitors commonly used in everything from cars, camcorders and lawn mowers to industrial backup power systems at hospitals and airports,” Kumta said.

Standard batteries are powered by ruthenium, which sells for $100 per gram, compared with vanadium nitride at $50 a gram.

“Not only is vanadium nitride less expensive to use, it can also store energy much longer, giving users a greater burst of juice for the old finicky car battery or the hospital’s backup power system,” Kumta said.

Nanocrystalline batteries will also cope with the power demands of the increasing functionality available in mobile phones and handheld devices, according to Kumta.