Empowering wind power
In wind turbines, ultracapacitors help in electric blade pitch control systems, which adjust to changes in wind conditions to create electricity more efficiently. As a highly reliable option that performs well even in extreme weather, ultracapacitors are a more cost-effective option than batteries for wind turbines.
Batteries struggle in high peak power situations and perform poorly in cold temperatures. In extreme weather conditions, a battery has a severely limited operating life and poor charge acceptance, resulting in frequent component swaps under potentially dangerous conditions. However, ultracapacitors meet the high power demands of wind turbines to make rapid blade adjustments and operate in a range of temperatures from -40C to 65C. Their long life means little or no maintenance.
Consumer electronics and LEDs
Ultracapacitors provide a fast charge to handheld consumer electronics, including toothbrushes, shavers, clippers, and flashlights. Using ultracapacitors in such devices means little or no maintenance, less landfill waste, and an overall greener product, thanks to the ultracapacitor's long lifespan.
As LED adoption rises, extending a product's lifespan without increasing costs remains a challenge. Rechargeable batteries, which do not function properly when it is too warm or too cold, were previously the only energy storage option for off-grid LED-based products. Also, batteries' short lifespans meant replacing an entire lighting unit when the battery died, though the LED itself could last roughly 10 years.
Hybrid capacitors, which combine an ultracapacitor with a lithium-ion battery, provide greater energy-storage capabilities in LEDs, since they have a 115 percent higher energy density than a standard electric double-layer capacitor. Handheld devices using LEDs benefit from the fast, efficient power of a hybrid capacitor, which can charge a device in one minute while producing power to generate a light that lasts up to 90 minutes without recharging.
Next up for ultracaps
Laminated pouch ultracapacitor cells will offer more flexibility and high energy. These cells will emerge as high-power, high-energy-density alternatives to the traditional cylindrical cells. The pouches allow for a smaller module, which reduces the location issues raised by larger cylindrical cells. These flexible ultracapacitors are particularly useful in power conditioning applications, such as providing power in parts of the world where the utility grid does not produce the smooth voltage input or peak current needed to power machines. Although not new, thin pouch ultracapacitors will be adopted in more clean technology applications.
Ultracapacitors' high power and cost efficiency will continue to provide more efficiency and superior performance for a range of electronic applications. This will only fuel ultracapacitor adoption and drive the energy storage industry forward.
Chad Hall is the founder and a vice president of sales at Ioxus Inc.