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That's (Electron) Entrainment!
March 10, 2010 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Chemically Driven Carbon-Nanotube-Guided Thermopower Waves (VIDEO) are "a new scientific area for research" and may be able to provide 100 times more energy by weight than a standard lithium-ion battery.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not a materials scientist, but with the reaction generating temperatures of up to 3k Kelvin, isn't waste heat going to be a bit of an issue?

Cool stuff tho.
posted by PMdixon at 10:34 AM on March 10, 2010


..isn't waste heat going to be a bit of an issue?

No, I think the labs that will be researching this idea can handle those temperatures.
posted by DU at 10:40 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


These series of nanotubes, they are everywhere, and not like a truck!
posted by wierdo at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2010


Nice title.

Carbon nanotubes are the lasers of tomorrow. The coolest thing ever (so far) that scientists need to find a reason to put into everything.
posted by Babblesort at 10:49 AM on March 10, 2010


"This fuel was then ignited at one end of the nanotube using either a laser beam or a high-voltage spark, and the result was a fast-moving thermal wave traveling along the length of the carbon nanotube like a flame speeding along the length of a lit fuse."

Everything about this sounds like an excerpt from a mad scientist's handbook.

So I heartily approve and hope all works out.
posted by quin at 10:50 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well there you go. It frickin uses a laser already. Vindication!
posted by Babblesort at 10:51 AM on March 10, 2010


This might be very big.
posted by bonehead at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2010


This might be very big small.
posted by rusty at 11:15 AM on March 10, 2010


I can't wait until they put nanotubes in a VCR. They already put lasers in and gave us DVDs.

PMdixon, one of the articles said that they were going to tweak the fuel coating to maximize the electricity/heat ratio. What are the implications of something so small being so hot? I imagine that with such a high surface area and small volume, the heat dissipates rather quickly. The video says that it stays hot for "several hundred milliseconds."
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 11:24 AM on March 10, 2010


Ah, right. I guess at those scales you would have pretty fast dissipation. Still not sure how you easily get to implanted-biological applications, tho, but maybe that's just press-release boilerplate these days.

But basically (basically here meaning "not at all except in very crude cartoon form"), this is an incandescent bulb in reverse, no?
posted by PMdixon at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2010


An interesting question (to me anyway) is how efficient these things are with regards to entropic heat losses. Is the electrical energy released higher or lower than the thermal loss? In other words, is this technology better than an internal combustion engine with generator (~25%)? How about a fuel cell (perhaps 50%)? I don't have access to the original paper, so I can't check.

These turn a chemical fuel into electrical current, so the comparisons should be fairly direct.
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on March 10, 2010


I wonder if they'll combine this with a steam turbine to pull power in two ways from the same combustion?
posted by yeloson at 11:56 AM on March 10, 2010


An interesting question (to me anyway) is how efficient these things are with regards to entropic heat losses. Is the electrical energy released higher or lower than the thermal loss? In other words, is this technology better than an internal combustion engine with generator (~25%)? How about a fuel cell (perhaps 50%)? I don't have access to the original paper, so I can't check.

These turn a chemical fuel into electrical current, so the comparisons should be fairly direct.


According to the paper the "largest chemical to electrical and mechanical energy efficiencies observed in this work are 0.3% and 0.12% respectively, with the highest efficiency considering both as 0.42%." They state they're working on improving this.

Seems like an interesting effect, probably worthwhile for someone to investigate and pursue at least.
posted by peppito at 12:25 PM on March 10, 2010


They state that this isn't reversible, at least for the time being.

I wouldn't get too excited about these materials as a new battery replacement just yet; incidentally, gasoline also has a much higher energy density than Li-ion batteries.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2010


Railgun ammo.
posted by warbaby at 12:43 PM on March 10, 2010


largest chemical to electrical and mechanical energy efficiencies observed in this work are 0.3% and 0.12% respectively

Yowza! That gives them lot's of headroom for improvement. Does it say what the stored energy densities are?
posted by bonehead at 12:45 PM on March 10, 2010


Metafilter: Remains hot for several seconds.
posted by Severian at 3:22 PM on March 10, 2010


This is awesome. Thank you.

I don't know if they'll ever get the efficiency too high, and actually making nanotubes is still so crazy hard that the whole field is like sci-fi, but it's nonetheless an exciting find.

I think if aliens ever visit us, we'll have to trade them our computing devices for their power storage and generation devices. It just seems like we've done such unbelievable things with information processing and such unimpressive things (so far) with energy. I await the day when my cell phone contains a tiny aneutronic fusion reactor.

*claps* Get on that, industry.
posted by Xezlec at 8:55 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


incidentally, gasoline also has a much higher energy density than Li-ion batteries.

That's why this stuff matters. In every economic and performance metric there is, combustion engines are just garbage compared to electric engines, but we have to run our cars on combustion engines because we don't have anything that approached the energy density of gasoline. (The only reason that electric cars are even plausible at all right now is that they use so much less energy to do the same work as a combustion engine, which mitigates part of that huge gap in energy density)

Significantly increasing the energy density for electricity storage is one of the holy grails of our age.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:14 PM on March 11, 2010


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