Researchers in India have decided to add their energy storage to the renewable power source. They have combined a supercapacitor (similar to a battery but with a much longer lifespan) with photovoltaic solar panels to create a mobile power unit which can be charged for free via the sun
After just four hours in the sun the Amrita Smart solar tile holds enough power to charge laptops and mobile phones in as little as two hours, and can store the energy for up to seven days if not immediately required. The team are still looking for a way by which they can increase this capacity to 30 days.
Whilst current products may appear a little bulky, they are only the prototypes. Dr Shantikumar Nair, director of the Amrita Center for Nanoscience and Molecular Medicine in Kochi, said that future devices will be “thinner, flexible, and with improved storage capacity.”
This device is the first of its type, but could prove to be very useful, having the means to store excess energy attached to the source of that energy just seems sensible. Rather than having a solar panel and a separate battery to lug around, combing the two seems obvious.
As Dr Nair said, “there is a need for off-grid electricity, which PV can provide, but also for storing this energy for use when required.” A problem that Amrita faces is trying to increase the energy density of the supercapacitor so that it can hold enough charge for various tasks, without making the device too bulky.
Professor Yury Gogotsi at Drexel Nanotechnology Institute, Philadelphia, believes that whilst there is still much work to be done on the technology, “Amrita's prototype is a step in the right direction.”