Next generation ultracapacitor technology promises high performance energy storage benefits
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?
Hall: We have looked at the three main areas for improvement.
The first is electrically. The new 3000F cell has the lowest ESR on the market. The lower the ESR the more efficient the cell and the higher the power density can be. We have made the most efficient product on the market.
The second area of improvement is mechanically. This includes the interconnect and the termination. A lot of customers have talked about the terminals and terminations for ultracapacitors. They have had difficulty using them from competitors. Our competitors have three products in which you could bolt a busbar on, weld a busbar on or press a busbar on so they had three separate designs for those. Ioxus has opted to do all three of those with our product. So you can press, bolt or weld onto our terminal. We have also produced the largest diameter terminal which allows for better heat transfer and more stable connection and a more reliable connection over time. It also makes for a better connection from the busbar perspective so overall system losses or ESR is better and that is very important.
The third area of improvement is thermally. Owing to the lower ESR, the cell generates less heat during charge and discharge which means lower cooling requirements and a longer cell life. The cooler the cell the longer it is going to last.
We have two female threads on each side of the terminal so that you can bolt two separate busbars or one busbar. This really makes a big difference because if you want to do a prototype or something like that it gives you the option to do that or use it in production.EE Times Europe: How have you set about improving the application capabilities of youw new ultracapacitor?
Hall: We have also done a lot of standards compliance. First up we did the ROHS to support European market. We have also done Chinese ROHS which is very similar for the China-Pacific region. We have done CE to comply with all the European safety standards. We have done UL 810A which is specific to ultracapacitors and we have done IEC testing for shock, vibration and temperature shock and all the specifications that are required. We have also done a military standard random drop test. A lot of ultracapacitors are being used in more and more vibration demanding applications such as off-road heavy duty vehicles that undergo a lot of pounding. Customers have also requested the random drop test. We are the only ultracapacitor product in the market to pass this drop test. The test involves about 900 drops in a 45 minute period.
The prototype capability allows people who want to see if they use an ultracapacitor to put these ultracapacitors on a bench and see how they are going to work without own a laser welding rig. It also facilitates a very low ESR connection because it offers one of the most stable connections on the market. The 3000F device is rugged and built for high vibration applications.
EE Times Europe: What are they key performance gains offered with the new ultracapacitor?
Hall: Last year the largest transportation company in Germany at the advanced auto battery conference in Germany said that if they could get a capacitor with five percent lower ESR or five percent better power density it would dramatically reduce their cooling requirements and make ultracapacitors a much more viable product for them.
We offer an ESR of 12 percent which is more than two times that of our competitors.
We have taken the customers' requests and we have more than doubled
The power density for the 3000F cell is 6.6kW per kg or if you are looking at maximum power it is 16.2 kW per kg or 21.2 kW per liter. In terms of maximum power in kW per kg we are nine percent better and in kW per liter we are 14 percent better. We have also made the iCap 3,000F cell the lowest weight cell on the market. We have increased the robustness, we have increased the termination and decreased the weight and increased the power density.
EE Times Europe: How would you summarize the major benefits of the new 3000F cell?
Hall: In summary the major benefits of the product are its ESR performance which is basically the same as power density. But also the termination technology solution which allows customers to design-in a product that gives them a much better robustness at the connection level but also allows the customers who are using other cells to use our cells.
The product is called iCap because the ultracapacitors can be connected to pretty much anything and are they pretty intuitive in how you can use them. We like to say 'plug and play' and we are all now well used to that term. We have designed them to be highly intuitive to use. You can use almost any type of termination you would want.
Our engineering team has been really working hard on what customers need. They have been looking at aspects like termination technology as well as how to balance the modules properly. They have also been examining technology versus cost issues.
We believe we've pretty much answered all what customers have demanded within one package.
We have made what the customer is really looking for.
EE Times Europe: When is the new 3000F cell going to be available in Europe?
Hall: The Ioxus iCap 3,000F cell will be available as a product from January 17, 2012. The distributor in Europe is based in the UK and is Advanced Power Components plc.
New 3000-F ultracapacitor claims to offer the lowest weight, lowest ESR and highest power density
More information about the iCAP 3,000F ultracapacitors at
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