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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R020892/1
Title: ISCF Wave 1: High Energy Density Capacitors Manufactured with Optoelectronic Tweezers (CapOET)
Principal Investigator: Neale, Dr SL
Other Investigators:
Alford, Professor N Cronin, Professor L Petrov, Dr PK
Cooper, Professor J Riley, Professor DJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Dyson Technology
Department: School of Engineering
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 October 2017 Ends: 31 March 2021 Value (£): 958,945
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy Storage
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
There is an increasing demand for storing electrical energy for portable devices with the popularity of mobile phones and emerging trends such as wearable technologies. The move from petrol fuelled cars to electric cars to reduce carbon emissions and hence tackle climate change has also produced an increased need for electrical energy storage so that today more than one billion lithium-ion batteries are sold each year. Lithium-ion batteries are usually used because they can store more electrical energy than competing technologies whilst being physically small and light. Capacitors are an alternative method of storing electrical energy however because they are larger and weigh more than batteries they are only used in applications where a lot of energy is needed in a short time as they can discharge their energy quickly. This project aims to reduce the size and weight of capacitors whilst still allowing them to store sufficient electrical energy so that they can compete with batteries and use their natural advantages of quick charging and discharging along with their improved device lifetimes (their ability to store energy does not reduce over time like a battery does) to create better energy storage devices. Our industrial partners Dyson are interested in this technology for their small portable and autonomous products.

The amount of charge that a capacitor can store is dependent on the material that it is made out of. The more the material resists the electrical field applied to it (e.g. higher permittivity) the more energy that can be stored in the device. In this project, we will develop a material that has a fantastically higher permittivity than naturally occurring materials. To achieve this material we will use a novel technique for assembling metal nanoparticles (particles that are 1 billionth of a meter across) into long strands of particles that look like "pearl chains" with insulating gaps between them. Once we have made a capacitor with our new technique we will measure how much energy the capacitor can store and hence how much the material it is made out of can resist the electrical fields applied. We will perform simulations of the devices and compare them to the results measured to help determine which physical description best describe the physics present in the new material. This project will culminate in the production of a technology demonstrator where we will produce a device that uses one of our capacitors to store energy to run an LED.

Our proposal fits with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) objectives 1, 2 and 3. Our project partners, Dyson, are planning to invest £1B in energy storage research and development over the next several years, much of which will be spent investing in other companies working on energy storage however our project will give them an improved capability and increased capacity to invest this money in UK based research (ISCF objective 1).Our project involves interdisciplinary research between Chemists, Engineers and Physicists to produce a new way to manufacture high permittivity materials. The new interdisciplinary research comes from using a chemical approach to build nanometre scale building blocks and then assemble these with electrical engineering techniques into long thin interrupted metallic strands whose size allow them to exhibit quantum mechanical phenomena. This new interdisciplinary method of creating these structures for energy storage fits with the ISCF objective 2. Energy storage in supercapacitors in an established field of research with a great deal of activity aimed at increasing the energy that can be stored at the solid/liquid interface. Our technique is innovative in that it uses a fundamentally different approach where the charge is stored in nanodielectrics instead. This project will then allow our project partners to be involved in research which is more innovative and higher risk than they otherwise would be able to undertake (ISCF objective 3).
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Organisation Website: http://www.gla.ac.uk