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Supercapacitors on the verge of breakout, to grow 30% yoy

Posted: 15 Feb 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:supercapacitors? power circuits? lithium-ion battery?

Due to their higher rate of improvement, Supercapacitors (ultracapacitors) have left batteries and electrolytic capacitors and are taking centre stage for designers of electronics and power circuits.

This shift is subtly reducing both the danger and the need for lithium-ion batteries. For example, when placed across a rechargeable battery, they protect it from fast charging and discharging and allow more of the energy in the battery to be utilised. The result is that less battery is needed, life and safety are improved and maintenance is reduced. As a result of this and the increasing use of supercapacitors where they do not replace batteries, the growth of the leading suppliers in aggregate has increased from 25 per cent yearly to a blistering 30 per cent yearly rising to over $11 billion within ten years according to market research firm IDTechEx.

Of the eighty or so companies making or about to make supercapacitors and their variants such as supercabatteries ("assymetrical electrochemical double layer capacitors" such as "lithium capacitors"), only 6 per cent are in Europe. It may therefore seem to be a strange location for the Supercapacitors Europe 2013 event. However, 25 per cent of supercapacitor demand is in Europe, from Bombardier using large banks of them to recapture braking energy of trains to Riversimple putting them across the fuel cell in a car and extensive use by others as backup in wind turbine blade control, bus door opening, hybrid car, crane and elevator braking and many stand-by Power Supplies for electronics. The MAN hybrid bus in Germany is a success with the lithium-ion battery completely replaced by a supercapacitor.

Mainly, these large and rapidly growing applications in Europe leverage the high power density and above all fit-and-forget benefits of supercapacitors which last the life of the equipment in which they are installed. With the Boeing Dreamliner grounded because of its lithium-ion battery system, in future supercapacitors will partly or wholly replace such batteries in aircraft wherever possible, mimicking what has already happened on the ground. Indeed, supercapacitors can be fully discharged for transport and the majority of them will soon have no flammable toxic electrolyte unlike the batteries they replace. By contrast, air regulations concerning transport and use of lithium-ion batteries may tighten.

- Julien Happich
??EE Times Europe

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