All electric devices are built to operate with a certain type and amount of electrical energy, but this is often not the same type or amount of electrical energy that comes out of the outlet in your wall. Power converters modify electrical energy from the outlet to a usable current, voltage, and frequency for an electronic device. Power stations also use power converters on a larger scale to modify electrical energy so it can be efficiently transmitted. Today's power converters are inefficient because they are based on decades-old technologies and rely on expensive, bulky, and failure-prone components. Within the next 20 years, 80% of the electricity used in the U.S. will flow through these devices, so there is a critical need to improve their efficiency.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
There is a constant demand for better performing, more compact, lighter-weight, and lower-cost electronic devices. Unfortunately, the materials traditionally used to make components for electronic devices have reached their limits. Case Western Reserve University is developing capacitors made of new materials that could be used to produce the next generation of compact and efficient high-powered consumer electronics and electronic vehicles. A capacitor is an important component of an electronic device. It stores an electric charge and then discharges it into an electrical circuit in the device. Case Western is creating its capacitors from titanium, an abundant material extracted from ore which can be found in the U.S. Case Western's capacitors store electric charges on the surfaces of films, which are grown on a titanium alloy electrode that is formed as a spinal column with attached branches. The new material and spine design make the capacitor smaller and lighter than traditional capacitors, and they enable the component to store 300% more energy than capacitors of the same weight made of tantalum, the current industry standard. Case Western's titanium-alloy capacitors also spontaneously self-repair, which prolongs their life.
If successful, Case Western would facilitate the next generation of powerful, compact, light-weight, low-cost electronic devices.
Identifying an abundant domestic source for capacitor materials could help reduce U.S. reliance on foreign suppliers of scarce materials like tantalum.
More efficient electrical components conserve energy and reduce harmful emissions.
Less expensive electronic products would benefit consumers and industrial users across numerous industries.