Scientists develop a lightweight copper wire that can both transmit and store electricity

Batteries could become a thing of the past thanks to a group of scientists who have managed to create a wire that can transmit and store electricity.

The technology, which was created at a University of Central Florida research lab, could be used in the design of electrical vehicles and portable electronic devices, its manufacturers said.

It has been developed from a basic copper wire and effectively has a super capacitor on the outside.

The leader of the team that made the wire, Javan Thomas, said that the technique used could be transferable to other types of materials in the future.

He said it could lead to specially treated clothing fibers with the ability to hold enough power for industrial tasks.

copper

The technology may result in large batteries becoming obsolete.

Scientists have already been able to demonstrate the technology by turning on a basic LED light on a wire (in a video, below, which was apparently shot in a very dark room).

Thomas said that if the technology was developed in small fibers it could be used in a jacket that could power the gadgets we carry around with us.

If the technology was to be combined with flexible solar cells, the fibers could easily be woven into a piece of clothing.

The team started with a single copper wire and they then grew a layer of nanowhiskers on the outer surface of the copper wire.

The whiskers were then treated with a special alloy, which created an electronde.

For powerful energy storage to be possible, two electrodes are needed, which led to them adding a thin plastic sheet around the whiskers and wrapping it around using a metal sheath – the second electrode.

The insulation layer on the wire means the inner copper is able to transmit electricity while the layers around the wire can store energy.

Creator Thomas said: “It’s a very interesting idea. When we did it and started talking about it, everyone we talked to said, ‘Hmm, never thought of that. It’s unique.'”


Greening the US: How cities can join power plants in cutting carbon emissions

The US has announced massive plans to cut the amount of carbon pollution produced from power plants over the next sixteen years – which could save billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs.

Power plants the country will have until 2030 to cut their carbon emissions by 30%, based on 2005 levels.

The move is a bold step to try and reduce the amount of carbon pollution across the country but power plants alone should not be a single focus for reducing carbon pollution.

The US government says that cutting the carbon pollution levels will also avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children and almost half a million missed work or school days.

It estimates that it will provide up to $93bn in climate and public health benefits as well as shrinking electricity bills by eight percent.

The proposals, which have been announced by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are split into two parts.

Firstly, there will be state-specific emission rate-based CO2 goals. Secondly, there will be the introduction of guidelines for the submission, development and implementation of the state plans.

The EPA says that electricity accounts for 32% of greenhouse gas emissions. The other largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportations (28%), industry (20%), commercial and residential (10%) and agriculture (10%).

However, transport and commercial carbon pollution, when combined, are almost as damaging to the environment as the generation of electricity.  To address this, here are seven technologies that could cut down on carbon emissions in our cities.

Vertical farming

Farming animals or crops within a skyscraper greenhouse, or vertically inclined surfaces in cities will help to reduce the amount of food products that need to be transported from rural farms to our large urban areas.

This will reduce the amount of carbon produced by large delivery trucks travelling across the country.

Using artificial lighting and natural light-growing crops in our cities will help the sustainability of our cities as well as natural landscapes.

Hyperloop for travel

Elon Musk’s plans for the Hyperloop, a train system without rails that is powered from solar panels, could significantly reduce the amount of carbon pollution produced from urban transport systems such as the New York subway or the London Underground.

The idea is still very firmly in the development stage, but could become a transport staple within decades.

Adopt 3D printers

The 3D printing revolution for consumers is only just beginning to take off, and as more of us buy printers, which are coming down in price, we will need to visit the shops less often.

The ability to print our own items without leaving the house will enable carbon emissions to be reduced from the amount of travelling needed to buy and manufacture the products.

Self-driving cars

Google’s recently announced testing of self-driving cars could seriously help to cut down on carbon emissions from cars.

Not only are the cars electric, but they will also cut down on reckless and fuel-inefficient driving.

Get rid of DVDs

A recent study by scientists showed that there could be a massive cut in carbon pollution if streaming services such as Netflix were used instead of DVDs. A large proportion of the carbon that could be saved would come from people stopping from driving to the shops to pick up the latest release.

Cut down on packaging

Almost 35% of plastic made each year is used for packaging. If large manufacturers can use 3D printing and other technologies to cut down on the amount of plastic needed to get products into our homes,  then we could easily cut down on the amount of carbon pollution produced by making plastic.

Capturing waste heat

It may not be a direct way to cut carbon emissions, but if we can capture waste heat from large buildings using thermoelectric generators, it can be put back into the grid and reduce the amount of electricity that we need to generate by using power plants in the first place.

Some work needs to be done to get this technology into our buildings, but as it’s proven it shouldn’t take long to make this innovation a reality.