Nanocable Potential Boon for Energy Storage

Researchers at Rice University have created a tiny coaxial cable that is about a thousand times smaller than a human hair and has higher capacitance than previously reported micro capacitors.

The nanocable was produced with techniques pioneered in the nascent graphene research field and could be used to build next-generation energy-storage systems. It could also find use in wiring up components of lab-on-a-chip processors.

While the coaxial cable is a mainstay of broadband telecommunications, the three-layer, metal-insulator-metal structure can also be used to build energy-storage devices called capacitors. Unlike batteries, which rely on chemical reactions to both store and supply electricity, capacitors use electrical fields. A capacitor contains two electrical conductors, one negative and the other positive, that are separated by thin layer of insulation. Separating the oppositely charged conductors creates an electrical potential, and that potential increases as the separated charges increase and as the distance between them – occupied by the insulating layer — decreases. The proportion between the charge density and the separating distance is known as capacitance, and it is the standard measure of efficiency of a capacitor.

The study reports that the capacitance of the nanocable is at least 10 times greater than what would be predicted with classical electrostatics.

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