High-Performance Supercapacitors from Niobium Nanowire Yarns for Wearables.

Wearable electronic devices for health and fitness monitoring are a rapidly growing area of consumer electronics; one of their biggest limitations is the capacity of their tiny batteries to deliver enough power to transmit data. Now, researchers at MIT have found a promising new approach to delivering the short but intense bursts of power needed by such small devices.

The key is a new approach to making supercapacitors — devices that can store and release electrical power in such bursts, which are needed for brief transmissions of data from wearable devices such as heart-rate monitors, computers, or smartphones. They may also be useful for other applications where high power is needed in small volumes, such as autonomous microrobots.

The new approach uses yarns, made from nanowires of the element niobium, as the electrodes in tiny supercapacitors

Nanotechnology researchers have been working to increase the performance of supercapacitors for the past decade. Among nanomaterials, carbon-based nanoparticles — such as carbon nanotubes and graphene — have shown promising results, but they suffer from relatively low electrical conductivity

In this new work, the researchers have shown that desirable characteristics for such devices, such as high power density, are not unique to carbon-based nanoparticles, and that niobium nanowire yarn is a promising alternative.

The new nanowire-based supercapacitor exceeds the performance of existing batteries, while occupying a very small volume.

The innovation is especially significant for small devices, as this technology can deliver big bursts of power from a very small device.

Niobium is a fairly abundant and widely used material. so the whole system should be inexpensive and easy to produce

The niobium-based supercapacitors can store up to five times as much power in a given volume as carbon nanotube versions.

Niobium also has a very high melting point — nearly 2,500 degrees Celsius — so devices made from these nanowires could potentially be suitable for use in high-temperature applications.

In addition, the material is highly flexible, so this innovation is very significant in the development of smart fabrics and future wearable technologies

Read more details about High-Performance Supercapacitors from Niobium Nanowire Yarns at https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/nanowire-supercapacitors-energy-boost-0707

And, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73LLIDuTyWw to know about Google's Project Jacquard, a system for weaving technology into fabric, transforming everyday objects, like clothes, into interactive surfaces.

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