“Drones and medium-sized robots will have new solutions for energy storage. I can guarantee that structural batteries will be a part of this. " - Nicholas Kotov , Ann Arbor Campus, University of Michigan.
How can Nicholas Kotov be so sure? Well, he already handles small robots whose shells both protect the robot and fill the role of battery. The menagerie consists of a scorpion, a caterpillar, a spider and an ant. Kotov's robot shells are flexible and are built with a cathode of zinc and an anode of carbon fiber. In between is a flexible electrolyte consisting of polymers in the form of nanoparticles.
In the same way that we humans carry energy with us in our fat cells, Kotov's robots take energy with them in their shells. Because the shell is movable, it can also serve as a ligament between the moving parts of the robot.
Structural batteries are built from materials that have dual functions - as a load-bearing part of the construction at the same time as it is a power source. In a car, the battery becomes the floor itself, instead of the battery being mounted under the floor. On an airplane, the wing becomes both wing and fuel.
Research on structural batteries has been going on for a long time. Leif Asp from Chalmers University of Technology and Emile Greenhalgh, Imperial College London have run two in the area - Storage and Sorcerer .
Asp and Greenhalgh have focused on the automotive and aerospace industries, but their projects have inspired innovations in many other areas. Leif Asp says that he previously did not understand what significance the project would have. He just wanted to get rid of batteries as "structure parasites".
"We must focus on energy efficiency. Every electron counts in the fight against climate change" - Leif Asp
Emile Greenhalgh sticks out his chin and says that their project has gone further than what Tesla has presented so far. In an interview with Wired , he says that they are far ahead of Musk: "Where he is now, we were already ten years ago."
The Sorcerer project used a method in which the battery's cathode and anode are made up of carbon fiber, and are separated by a thin electrolyte. The combination of rigidity, low weight and energy storage will be a superpower for the aerospace and automotive industries.
A number of tests are now underway to see how the carbon fiber's strength is affected by charges and discharges. Both cars and aircraft are subject to regulations that require approval. Unexpected material fatigue must not occur on either car bodies or aircraft wings.
It tends to go faster in other areas, such as the robots above, where the battery also functions as a ligament and outer shell.
A particularly exciting area for structural batteries concerns medical equipment such as chip implants and IoT devices in healthcare (internet-of-things). For this type of equipment, batteries often take up a large part of the physical product .
Structural batteries save space and offer more efficient energy solutions. Not to mention all the imagination that is set in motion by the world's developers. Did I hear that someone was thinking of creating track transmitters for bats?
Make the future come sooner!