Thin, flexible glass could store energy for electric cars, wind turbines

penn state flexible glass
© Walt Mills / Penn State University

Researchers at Penn State University have developed a new thin glass that could be the next great energy storage technology and make hybrid and electric vehicles more affordable and reliable and be ideal for renewable energy storage.

Penn State says, "Thin and flexible glass for displays is already a widely commercialized technology. But even thinner glass, about one tenth the thickness of display glass, can be customized to store energy at high temperatures and for high power applications, such as electric vehicle power electronics, wind turbine generators, grid-tied photovoltaics, aerospace, and geothermal exploration and drilling."

The researchers tested various alkali-free glass compositions and thicknesses and compared their energy density to current commercial polymer capacitors used in electric vehicles that convert energy from the battery to the electric motor. These capacitors require a separate cooling system, which makes them large and bulky. The Penn State researchers discovered a 10-micron think glass that kept a high charge-discharge efficiency at temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius.

In partnership with Strategic Polymer Sciences the researchers have been able to produce this glass in a roll-to-roll process in thin sheets, which is inexpensive. They then coat the glass with high temperature polymers which increase energy density by 2.25 times and make it more capable of self-healing.

With more development, this glass could be the key to more affordable and longer lasting electric vehicles and serve as lightweight, efficient energy storage for renewable energy technologies like wind and solar.

Thin, flexible glass could store energy for electric cars, wind turbines
A new ultra-thin glass could make electric cars lighter and more affordable and be a great source of energy storage for renewable energy technologies.

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