Supercapacitor breakthrough to bring seconds-long charging to phones, laptops and electric cars

A significant breakthrough in supercapacitor technology looks set to render the humble battery to history, by providing both dramatically increased power capacities and rates of recharge.

The polymer-based technology, which is the result of research by scientists at the University of Surrey, the University of Bristol and Augmented Optics, has been found to be 1,000 to 10,000 times more powerful than existing batteries, and is also more environmentally friendly.

Supercapacitors have long been considered an important technology for future development, providing an alternative to batteries by storing energy using electrodes and electrolytes. This allows the energy to be stored and released for use far more quickly than in standard batteries, but so far supercapacitors have not been able to compete due to the fact that they have poor levels of energy density.

In other words, up until now supercapacitors could store only 1/20 of the energy of batteries per kilogramme, meaning that they were generally too large to be practical.

However, by adapting the principles used to make soft contact lenses – the primary field of Augmented Optics – the scientists have finally developed a material that can not only allow supercapacitors compete with batteries, but offer significant improvements over them.

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The advances this supercapacitor technology offers are best explained in terms of electric cars, where it could offer the most dramatic improvements.

A present a standard electric car can get you from London to the nearby city of Brighton – a journey of approximately 55 miles. According to the scientists, this new supercapacitor could allow a car to be driven from London to Edinburgh – a journey of approximately 420 miles – on a single charge. And even when a car is required to recharge, the supercapacitor should allow this process to take just a few minutes, around the same period of time it would take to refill a petrol engine.

“There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments,” said Dr Brendan Howlin, from the University of Surrey.

However, it’s not just electric cars, or even gadgets, that could benefit.

“While this research has potentially opened the route to very high density supercapacitors, these polymers have many other possible uses in which tough, flexible conducting materials are desirable, including bioelectronics, sensors, wearable electronics, and advanced optics,” explained Dr Ian Hamerton, Reader in Polymers and Composite Materials from the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol.

“We believe that this is an extremely exciting and potentially game-changing development.”

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Now the scientists have demonstrated the potential of the supercapacitor technology, the next challenge is to develop it into a commercial product.

“The test results from the new polymers suggest that extremely high energy density supercapacitors could be constructed in the very new future,” said Jim Heathcote, chief executive of both Augmented Optics and Supercapacitor Materials.

“We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra high energy density storage devices.”

US wants to use the Moon as a petrol station

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the Trump administration aims to turn the Moon into a petrol station, which will allow for the exploration of deeper parts of the solar system. According to Ross, explorers would use ice from the moon's craters to refuel on the way to other destinations.

SpaceX’s first broadband satellites are now in space

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed the company's first broadband satellites – named Tintin A and Tintin B – have been deployed and are now "communicating to Earth stations". The satellites are being used to test SpaceX's future Starlink broadband service, which aims to provide gigabit broadband worldwide.

Source: Ars Technica

Nissan to trial self-driving taxis in Japan

Nissan and Japanese tech giant DeNA have announced field tests of Easy Ride, the self-driving taxi service they developed together, will begin on March 5 in Yokohama, Japan. The cars will take passengers along a 4.5km route between the Yokohama World Porters shopping centre and Nissan’s corporate complex.

Source: Tech Crunch

Elon Musk quits AI ethics group

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Source: BBC

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Millions of dollars in Ethereum are vulnerable to hackers

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Source: Motherboard

Stronger in old age: Stem cell research paves way for muscle-building medication

It could in the future be possible to take medication that will allow you to build muscle, even when you are in old age.

This is due to the findings of research at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, which found that large, and wholly unexpected, amounts of mutations in muscle stem cells blocks their ability to regenerate cells.

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said Maria Eriksson, professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet.

With this knowledge, researchers could develop therapies that would encourage such regeneration, and so allow older people to rebuild lost muscle.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” explained Eriksson.

The landmark research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, involved the use of single stem cells, which were cultivated to provide enough DNA for whole genome sequencing – a medical first for this part of the body.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” said study first author Irene Franco, a postdoc in Eriksson’s research group.

While a significant step, the research is now being expanded to look at whether exercise affects the number of mutations – a potentially vital factor in understand why and how these mutations occur.

“We aim to discover whether it is possible to individually influence the burden of mutations. Our results may be beneficial for the development of exercise programmes, particularly those designed for an ageing population,” said Eriksson.

The research is one of a host of projects being conducted across the world that have potential impacts on ageing, an area that was long ignored by much of the scientific community, but is now garnering increased support.

If many – or even a fair minority – of these findings eventually become the basis of therapeutics, it could be transformative for old age in the future, allowing people to remain healthier for far later in life and potentially even leading to longer life expectancies.