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Next generation ultracapacitor technology promises high performance energy storage benefits

January 23, 2012 | Paul Buckley | 222903983
Next generation ultracapacitor technology promises high performance energy storage benefits In this news analysis article EE Times Europe Power Management's editor, Paul Buckley finds out more about the Ioxus Inc's new iCAP 3,000 Farad ultracapacitor by talking to Chad Hall who is Vice President of Sales for Ioxus Inc and one of the founders of the company.  The new device claims to represent the lowest weight, lowest equivalent series resistance (ESR) and highest power density ultracapacitor available in the market for energy storage cells.
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EE Times Europe: What has been focusing on in the past twelve months?

Hall: In April 2011 Ioxus received $21 million of investment from a number of companies including Energy Technology Ventures (a GE-NRG Energy-ConocoPhillips joint venture), Northwater Capital through its Northwater Intellectual Property Fund, Aster Capital (representing Alstom, Schneider Electric and Rhodia) and return investor Braemar Energy Ventures.

The funding enabled us to move into a new manufacturing facility so we took over the National Soccer Hall of Fame Facility in the USA which is a beautiful showcase facility. We retro-fitted the building in June 2011 and it has given us about five times more space than we had previously. We have also opened an office in China. We have several field applications engineers there now as well as quite a large distribution network.

Last year our product bookings increased seven times compared with 2010 and we have increased our staff by three times during the 2010 to 2011 period. We are now planning to launch our next generation iCAP 3,000 Farad ultracapacitor.

EE Times Europe: What do you see as the key application areas you are aiming to address with the new iCAP 3,000 Farad ultracapacitor?

Hall: The iCap is a next generation ultracapacitor technology that is based on better performance electrically, mechanically and thermally.

The big applications for the larger devices really fall in three major categories. The first one is transportation drives and systems. This would include hybrid buses. They actually use the ultracapacitors on board to accelerate the vehicle and then they recapture energy during braking.

The second application is light rail has several applications from on-board storage for when they ride through gaps in power stations. The ultracapacitors also do some on-board storage to accelerate the vehicle. Mainly in Europe they are looking at ways to put train stations in city centers without having to have the ugly overhead power lines. So ultracapacitors are being used to propel the vehicle away from the station and then when it gets to a safe location away from the city it will switch over to electric power and recharge the capacitors.

The third major application is way-side where they actually put a large box on the side of the tracks which captures energy to support the grid as the train turns on and off the motors. It will pull energy from the capacitors rather than the grid to cover any shortages in other places or any situations that may create any large inrushes of current to the train station. That particular market (the hybrid bus and the light rail) are really looking for the most efficient, longest lasting capacitors that they can get. Both of them are very high cycle. They are going to charge/discharge the cells hundreds of thousands if not millions of times. They are really looking for efficiency.

Other applications for these type of ultracapcitors include materials handling applications like fork lifts. There is also cold starting for large heavy lifting equipment such as mining equipment. Start/stop for micro hybrid cars is another application focus.

Energy recapture would also be a suitable application. For example, rubber tired gantries typically found in ports. These feature large cranes are used to lift containers off a ship and put them on trucks. They use the capacitor to recapture energy as they are lowering the container. The ultracapacitor applications for those have proven to reduce emissions by more than 30 percent and reduce electricity by up to 50 percent so they are very big savings from them and the payback is a very quick one.

Another significant application area is automotive acceleration systems for hybrid vehicles. A further key application is renewable energy systems. For example wind turbine switch control with ultracapacitors have been sold into wind turbine switch control applications for quite a while but now they are looking for larger building blocks. The 3000F cell allows them to have bigger building blocks.

There is also back-up for UPS systems while the last significant one are grid-level applications like ramp management for other types of large battery systems or large building systems that can come on line that will allow the ultracapacitors to handle some of that ramp management.

EE Times Europe: How have you set about improving the application capabilities of your new ultracapacitor?

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