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Old 28th November 2021, 11:15 AM   #1
Gord_in_Toronto
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Ultracapacitors - Better than batteries?

An interesting article in the Toronto Star a couple of days ago ( https://www.thestar.com/business/mar...ty-trucks.html ) about a company, Effenco, ( https://www.effenco.com/ ) that is making and selling trucks that use supercapacitors (or ultracapacitors, if you prefer) to replace electro-chemical batteries in certain classes of trucks.

Quote:
While Effenco’s systems are assembled in Montreal, and used by terminal trucks operated by Termont in the Port of Montreal, 90 per cent of the company’s sales have been in the international market. Its clients include Purolator, which uses them on its warehouse trucks, and the City of New York, whose sanitation department has retrofitted its garbage trucks with the system. More recently, Effenco helped the French waste collection firm, Derichebourg, secure a contract in Paris, its first, by including Effenco’s technology in its bid. (In Europe, firms bidding on public contracts can earn “points” for emissions reductions they offer.) That contract led to similar ones in Norway, Italy and the Netherlands, where Effenco’s systems will be added to 60 more trucks.
More about supercapacitors, their construction and benefits here: https://interestingengineering.com/c...ctric-vehicles

Quote:
"In the future, it is hoped the supercapacitor will be developed to store more energy than a Li-Ion battery while retaining the ability to release its energy up to 10 times faster - meaning the car could be entirely powered by the supercapacitors in its body panels,” said the study's co-author Jinzhang Liu.

"After one full charge, this car should be able to run up to 500km (310 miles) - similar to a petrol-powered car and more than double the current limit of an electric car.”
I see some hope. Anyone else?
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Old 28th November 2021, 11:26 AM   #2
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It certainly seems interesting, and we know that a capacitor can store a lot of energy, but I do wonder about safety. Not that big high voltage batteries are very safe either, but the ability of a capacitor to discharge its enormous capacity nearly at once makes it a little frightening to imagine what might happen in an accident.

The thought of a bunch of super-capacitors stuffed into doors and body panels seems as if it would make both collisions and rescues pretty problematic.
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Old 28th November 2021, 06:14 PM   #3
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I would also be concerned about the safety aspect.

So far as the "in the future" quote goes, Tesla Model S Plaid has a 0-60 of 2.2 seconds - how much faster do we need the energy to be released? Plus Model S and other cars have real world ranges today of over 250 miles. If the supercap can only manage 310 miles in some distant future, it's not going to cut the ice.

One important potential advantage over electrochemical batteries though could be reduced charging time, the corollary to rapid release.
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Old 28th November 2021, 06:43 PM   #4
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They use them in trains. They get the train rolling better from a stop and prevent big spikes in the power lines. They also help get the trains up short, steep grades.
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Old 28th November 2021, 07:34 PM   #5
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I'm not sure what sizes and weights those supercaps would have, but batteries are awfully heavy, so I wouldn't be surprised if they have a weight advantage. But I still think I'd be looking for safe, easily accessible, disconnect-equipped mounting.
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Old 28th November 2021, 11:17 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
An interesting article in the Toronto Star a couple of days ago ( https://www.thestar.com/business/mar...ty-trucks.html ) about a company, Effenco, ( https://www.effenco.com/ ) that is making and selling trucks that use supercapacitors (or ultracapacitors, if you prefer) to replace electro-chemical batteries in certain classes of trucks.
Quote:
All of these vehicles, Arsenault figured out, start and stop frequently, and much of their work is done while the truck is actually immobile. They didn’t require the same amount of energy as other heavy-duty trucks, nor as consistent an energy supply.

Over the next several years, Arsenault and his co-founders devised and perfected an electric powertrain system that could take full advantage of this fact, optimizing vocational truck’s energy use and dramatically reducing engine hours, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Three years ago, Effenco began selling a hybrid-electric version of this system, which is currently used in 500 retrofitted trucks in 10 different countries.
Old news. It's called regenerative braking, in this case charging a capacitor to run an electric motor for a short time from the recovered energy. It doesn't replace the gas engine, but does make the system a bit more efficient when used in frequent start-stop operation. That means garbage trucks, and... not much else.

An ultracapacitor or supercapacitor is a cross between a capacitor and a battery. It may charge and discharge faster, have higher cycle life and handle overdischarge better, but the energy density is much lower and voltage variation during discharge is higher. Good for recovering braking energy, but not good for long distance travel (particularly in a truck which values cargo space above all else).

Quote:
A fully electric system will be available in 2023....

“Ultracaps already make the trucks lighter and more fuel-efficient, but Effenco goes one step further, charging its systems wirelessly via flexible charge points. By running its algorithms to know the exact route of a garbage truck, when it’s idle and when it needs power, Effenco can position wireless charging stations along that route, reducing the need for on-board energy. The electric motor is not that expensive,” Arsenault says. “It’s really the batteries that are expensive. So if you’re able to shrink that, you’re able to shrink the cost of the vehicle.”
They seem to be saying that they will use ultracapacitors instead of batteries, and get around the range problem by charging them frequently at designated stops. Or not. Perhaps it is a combination of a (small) battery and an ultracapacitor.

But whatever the system, the result is the same. A very narrow use case that won't significantly reduce global warming. To really make an impact they will have to target longer range trucking, and that won't be done with supercapacitors that need to be recharged every few miles.

Quote:
I see some hope. Anyone else?
I see more hype than hope. This company is touting the 'green' credentials of its products when it's really about saving (and making) money. Nothing wrong with that, but the technology itself doesn't offer much hope of significantly reducing global warming. The message is a good one - "Hey, look at that! It's electric and cheaper to own and run too!". Only problem is it doesn't scale. Most electric trucks will need a different solution (batteries or hydrogen).
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Old 28th November 2021, 11:31 PM   #7
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When a capacitor cooks off, you will know all about it.

2:50 min of various capacitors losing it
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBoaBwMRbnk

And they are tiny. And the released gases are toxic. Scale that up to a car.
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Old 28th November 2021, 11:46 PM   #8
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Or get bigger capacitors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoWMF3VkI6U

Math and all for anyone interested only 6:10

And they would be small compared to what a car would need.

These things are a mere step away from explosives
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Old 29th November 2021, 12:21 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
When a capacitor cooks off, you will know all about it.

2:50 min of various capacitors losing it
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBoaBwMRbnk

And they are tiny. And the released gases are toxic. Scale that up to a car.
Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
Or get bigger capacitors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoWMF3VkI6U

Math and all for anyone interested only 6:10

And they would be small compared to what a car would need.

These things are a mere step away from explosives
Great videos. The second video clearly explains the practical differences between a battery and a supercapacitor. The latter can give you a massive amount of current. The former can give you heaps of energy with a low current.
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Old 29th November 2021, 12:49 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Great videos. The second video clearly explains the practical differences between a battery and a supercapacitor. The latter can give you a massive amount of current. The former can give you heaps of energy with a low current.
I was a student back in the early nineties. A 1F capacitor was amazing to us at the time and purely experimental. Now they are way up in the thousands of Farads. Unthinkable back then. I exploded quite a few back then in first year. And subsequently, TBH. The explosive nature of the devices is...unexpected. Resistors, diodes, even inductors will just smoulder gently. Capacitors will blow in no uncertain terms.

I would have videoed the thing back then, but it was not a thing. Phones could not do it and youtube was 15 years away at that point. I had an Erricson GH198 at the time. Amusingly, my eldest took it to school as a show and tell. Look how dumb old people were.
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Old 29th November 2021, 09:08 AM   #11
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Has anybody tried loading one into an artillery shell?
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Old 29th November 2021, 10:32 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
Old news. It's called regenerative braking, in this case charging a capacitor to run an electric motor for a short time from the recovered energy. It doesn't replace the gas engine, but does make the system a bit more efficient when used in frequent start-stop operation. That means garbage trucks, and... not much else.

An ultracapacitor or supercapacitor is a cross between a capacitor and a battery. It may charge and discharge faster, have higher cycle life and handle overdischarge better, but the energy density is much lower and voltage variation during discharge is higher. Good for recovering braking energy, but not good for long distance travel (particularly in a truck which values cargo space above all else).

They seem to be saying that they will use ultracapacitors instead of batteries, and get around the range problem by charging them frequently at designated stops. Or not. Perhaps it is a combination of a (small) battery and an ultracapacitor.

But whatever the system, the result is the same. A very narrow use case that won't significantly reduce global warming. To really make an impact they will have to target longer range trucking, and that won't be done with supercapacitors that need to be recharged every few miles.

I see more hype than hope. This company is touting the 'green' credentials of its products when it's really about saving (and making) money. Nothing wrong with that, but the technology itself doesn't offer much hope of significantly reducing global warming. The message is a good one - "Hey, look at that! It's electric and cheaper to own and run too!". Only problem is it doesn't scale. Most electric trucks will need a different solution (batteries or hydrogen).
I think you have identified many problems but, as the company has actually sold some systems for trucks and these are in operational use, there appears to be a niche market for the technology. Improvements in capacitor capacity appear to be possible. Some of the upsides are no rare earth metals required and light weight. If the competition is hydrogen fuel, I want to compare the explosions.
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Old 3rd December 2021, 03:51 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
Or get bigger capacitors.

These things are a mere step away from explosives
Rather a long step, actually. I haven't been able to find the weight of the cell discussed in the video, but let's say it's a pound. Then the specific energy is about 16 kJ/kg.

Specific energy of TNT is 14.5 MJ/kg.

Three orders of magnitude in not usually considered "mere".
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Old 4th December 2021, 09:27 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by hecd2 View Post
I would also be concerned about the safety aspect.

So far as the "in the future" quote goes, Tesla Model S Plaid has a 0-60 of 2.2 seconds - how much faster do we need the energy to be released? Plus Model S and other cars have real world ranges today of over 250 miles. If the supercap can only manage 310 miles in some distant future, it's not going to cut the ice.

One important potential advantage over electrochemical batteries though could be reduced charging time, the corollary to rapid release.
Not as much as you'd think. While a capacitor can, in principle, charge faster than a battery, the limit lies as much in the power capacity of the charging station.

On good thing is that capacitors should have lower loss than batteries.

Hans
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Old 4th December 2021, 09:43 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Not as much as you'd think. While a capacitor can, in principle, charge faster than a battery, the limit lies as much in the power capacity of the charging station.

On good thing is that capacitors should have lower loss than batteries.

Hans
Here's a pretty interesting video on gravity batteries, by Anton Petrov:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCawtiU4o1o
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Old 4th December 2021, 10:06 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Mike Helland View Post
Here's a pretty interesting video on gravity batteries, by Anton Petrov:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCawtiU4o1o


Well, I don't think we're going to see one of those powering a car, anytime soon.

Anyhow: I'm going to assume it works, but it does seem rather complicated. potentially needing lots of maintenance. OTOH, it has the advantage of using main-stream technology.

Hans
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Old 4th December 2021, 10:57 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Mike Helland View Post
Here's a pretty interesting video on gravity batteries, by Anton Petrov:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCawtiU4o1o
Rather than watch the video waiting for the "reveal" you can read the Wikipedia entry here Gravity batteryWP.
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Old 4th December 2021, 11:03 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post


Well, I don't think we're going to see one of those powering a car, anytime soon.

Anyhow: I'm going to assume it works, but it does seem rather complicated. potentially needing lots of maintenance. OTOH, it has the advantage of using main-stream technology.

Hans
I rather like the "Hole in the Ground" version. I would be worried about meteorological impacts on the free standing cranes.
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Old 4th December 2021, 12:35 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Rather than watch the video waiting for the "reveal" you can read the Wikipedia entry here Gravity batteryWP.
"GravityLight is a small gravity-powered light that operates by manually lifting a bag of rocks or sand up and then letting it fall by itself to generate energy."

Converting calories to electricity is an interesting proposition.
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Old 4th December 2021, 12:37 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
I rather like the "Hole in the Ground" version. I would be worried about meteorological impacts on the free standing cranes.
Mmm., that would be quite unliely. Earthquakes, terrorst atfacks, hurricanes, etc.. On the other hand....

Hans
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Old 4th December 2021, 12:44 PM   #21
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Actually, those things seem quite safe. The worst-case scenario seems to be that the whole thing collapses and the system and the stored energy is lost. ... As long as you don't build housing right under it.

Hans
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Old 4th December 2021, 01:56 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Mmm., that would be quite unliely. Earthquakes, terrorst atfacks, hurricanes, etc.. On the other hand....

Hans
Without doing any actual analysis, it appears to me that towers (Including cranes) seem to fall over more frequently than mine shafts collapse. Something tall sticking into wind, rain, ice, and snow is much more exposed than dropping a cable into a hole in nice solid stable rock.
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Old 4th December 2021, 02:57 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
Mmm., that would be quite unliely. Earthquakes, terrorst atfacks, hurricanes, etc.. On the other hand....

Hans
A hurricane is a meteorological event, in the usual sense of the term.
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Old 4th December 2021, 05:33 PM   #24
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Old 4th December 2021, 05:44 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by WhatRoughBeast View Post
Rather a long step, actually. I haven't been able to find the weight of the cell discussed in the video, but let's say it's a pound. Then the specific energy is about 16 kJ/kg.

Specific energy of TNT is 14.5 MJ/kg.

Three orders of magnitude in not usually considered "mere".
Not a bad guesstimate. Manufacture's documentation puts it at 525g or about 1.16lb.

BCAP0010 - Maxwell Technologies, Inc. - iiic.cc


The suffix is A03 not A08 as in the video but I don't expect that to have much bearing on mass.

Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
I was a student back in the early nineties. A 1F capacitor was amazing to us at the time and purely experimental. Now they are way up in the thousands of Farads. Unthinkable back then. I exploded quite a few back then in first year. And subsequently, TBH. The explosive nature of the devices is...unexpected. Resistors, diodes, even inductors will just smoulder gently. Capacitors will blow in no uncertain terms.

I would have videoed the thing back then, but it was not a thing. Phones could not do it and youtube was 15 years away at that point. I had an Erricson GH198 at the time. Amusingly, my eldest took it to school as a show and tell. Look how dumb old people were.
It was early 80's for me and when they went it was like a firecracker with bits of wax paper and foil strewn about. I expect in those days it was the wax on the wax paper that vaporized, expanded and blew the capacitor. Don't know what the energy density of the wax was. Haven't had much luck finding it but what I have found suggests that paraffin wax has an energy density similar to fuels like gasoline and diesel. About 46 kJ/g

Firecrackers are currently limited to <50mg of flash powder. At about 9.2 kJ/g. The rest is the casing that holds the expanding gasses together to make a louder bang.

Similarly it is the energy and mass of material burned or converted that needs to be considered not the energy of the material burned and mass of the entire device. Just the mass of the wax or oil itself. Most everything else is just a containment device that eventually fails.
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Old 4th December 2021, 06:01 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by ynot View Post
Energy Vault -BUSTED! (silly idea)
That there Thunderf00t is some sort of nasty skeptic, isn't he?

How dare he bring a rational analysis to destroy such magnificent ideas?

Boo. Hiss.

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Old 4th December 2021, 07:58 PM   #27
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I saw that proposal at some point not too long ago. I did not bother to watch the video past about the 3 minute mark, having muttered silently "why not just pumped storage" fairly constantly until then.

If there was more to the video than that, I apologize for my impatience. I would suggest that if one used gold bricks instead of big concrete blocks the job could be done with fewer cranes and a much smaller tower.

I am thinking of setting up a Gofundme page to enable me to start the gold brick feasibility study.

P.S. I've powered up a couple of aging camera flashes, and can report that though the aging capacitors so far have not erupted through the case when they blow up they tell you they're through with this **** in a very persuasive way.
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Old 4th December 2021, 08:15 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
I would suggest that if one used gold bricks instead of big concrete blocks the job could be done with fewer cranes and a much smaller tower.
PE = mgh

Potenial energy depends on mass and height.

Gold would reduce the volume, but increase the price, with no energy gain.

Unless, you can explain.
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Old 4th December 2021, 11:44 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Mike Helland View Post
PE = mgh

Potenial energy depends on mass and height.

Gold would reduce the volume, but increase the price, with no energy gain.

Unless, you can explain.
I am assuming the cost of the Gold bricks would be borne by the gofundme contributors. When the project fails, stealing them will be more rewarding.
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Old 5th December 2021, 02:07 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
A hurricane is a meteorological event, in the usual sense of the term.
Ya. I misread it as meteorite impacts.
Carry on....
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Old 5th December 2021, 06:16 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post

P.S. I've powered up a couple of aging camera flashes, and can report that though the aging capacitors so far have not erupted through the case when they blow up they tell you they're through with this **** in a very persuasive way.
I expect in both abaddon's and my accounts it was simple overvoltage (due to bad circuit calculations) that blew the capacitors not degradation from age and use.
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Old 5th December 2021, 08:32 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Without doing any actual analysis, it appears to me that towers (Including cranes) seem to fall over more frequently than mine shafts collapse. Something tall sticking into wind, rain, ice, and snow is much more exposed than dropping a cable into a hole in nice solid stable rock.
On the other hand, drainage is an issue for holes in the ground.
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Old 5th December 2021, 10:03 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
On the other hand, drainage is an issue for holes in the ground.
So we'll just have to dig them on the tops of mountains to provide natural, gravity-fed drainage. There is a solution for everything.
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Old 5th December 2021, 11:55 AM   #34
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To get back on topic, here is an article I wrote long ago, on conventional capacitors. Super capacitors may use different technologies.

http://www.hans-egebo.dk/Tutorial/el...capacitors.htm

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Old 5th December 2021, 01:05 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
To get back on topic, here is an article I wrote long ago, on conventional capacitors. Super capacitors may use different technologies.

http://www.hans-egebo.dk/Tutorial/el...capacitors.htm

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I could have used that when I took Electronics 101 back in 1960. It was mostly about vacuum tubes but we did have a couple of labs with the newfangled transistor thingies.

Without referring back to anything referenced in the thread so far, I would guess the big difference that makes a capacitor a supercapacitor are improvements in the dielectric materials.
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Old 5th December 2021, 02:48 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
I could have used that when I took Electronics 101 back in 1960. It was mostly about vacuum tubes but we did have a couple of labs with the newfangled transistor thingies.

Without referring back to anything referenced in the thread so far, I would guess the big difference that makes a capacitor a supercapacitor are improvements in the dielectric materials.
In the 80's it was mostly them thar transistor thingies, DIP stuff and even that new finagled 8088 thingamajig. Yet, we still had to learn some tubes, some of the higher powered stuff (commercial radio transmitters and such) still ran off 'em.
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Old 5th December 2021, 03:12 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Without referring back to anything referenced in the thread so far, I would guess the big difference that makes a capacitor a supercapacitor are improvements in the dielectric materials.
Not so much 'improved' as different. Capacitance is increased - at the expense of other properties - by making use of the double layer effect, possibly combined with metal oxide or conducting polymer electrodes which have high electrochemical pseudocapacitance.

Another type of supercapacitor becoming popular now is the Lithium Ion capacitor, which uses the anode of a li-ion battery and the cathode of a double-layer capacitor. This gives it higher energy density without compromising power density or cycle life, as well as increasing maximum voltage from 2.5V to 3.8V - but limits the minimum voltage to ~2V (whereas double-layer capacitors can be safely discharged to 0V).

All these methods of increasing capacitance use ions moving in solution, which results in higher losses and a shorter lifespan than conventional capacitors with solid dielectrics. The higher the energy density the more the 'capacitor' acts like a battery, so it's a matter of finding the right balance for the use case.
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