You are here

Innovative High Energy Density Capacitor Design Offers Potential for Clean Energy Applications

June 10, 2011 - 4:46pm


Similar system to the clustering tool that will manufacture TroyCap’s High Energy Density Nanolaminate Capacitor | Credit: TroyC

Similar system to the clustering tool that will manufacture TroyCap’s High Energy Density Nanolaminate Capacitor | Credit: TroyC

Can you imagine a photovoltaic module that’s able to generate and store electricity on its own? Or an electric vehicle (EV) powered by a technology more durable than the advanced batteries in today’s EVs? Malvern, Pennsylvania’s TroyCap, LLC is using nanolaminate technology patented by Dr. Troy Barbee at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to design innovative solid-state nanocapacitors that offer the potential to develop cross-cutting clean energy applications like these and others that lower the cost of energy and increase its efficient use.

TroyCap is using an innovative “sputtering” technique the company has developed with the support of LLNL to deposit alternating layers of conductive and insulating materials that are only several atoms thick on a thin metal substrate. Utilizing this process, the company hopes to manufacture what it calls High Energy Density Nanolaminate Capacitors (HEDCAPs) that the company projects will have 500 to 800 times the energy density of current capacitors and 5 to 10 times the energy density of current supercapacitors on the market, allowing them to store more energy.

Capacitors are in most electronic systems and are used to store and release an electrical charge, but are different from batteries in that they cannot themselves produce electrical energy. Capacitors consist of conductors – materials that are capable of passing an electrical charge – separated by a material with low electrical conductivity known as an insulator. Differences in charge can be stored on one side of the insulator and rapidly dispersed through the conductor on the other side. Unlike batteries they can be charged very quickly and degrade less with use over time.

According to Bob Schena, TroyCap’s Chairman, HEDCAPs could be used for a number of cross-cutting clean energy applications:

“We foresee that they could be applied directly to solar modules, creating a single unit that is able to both generate and store electricity, potentially lowering the balance of systems costs by marrying the inverter and batteries functions of a solar systems and reducing the frequency of battery swaps required during the25 year life of an array…HEDCAPs could also be used to create large amounts of storage capacity for EV’s or paired with advanced batteries to achieve enhanced battery lifetimes.”   

With support from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), TroyCap was able to develop a sputtering technique that builds upon research done by Dr. Barbee at LLNL. The TCF provided $75,000 as part of an initial cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) that allowed TroyCap to engage with LLNL. By the end of the CRADA, TroyCap had developed the sputtering process that allowed the company to prove out the cost and manufacturability of their final product.

A second CRADA between Troycap and LLNL, announced this spring, will support the design of the cluster tool that will be able to produce the nanocapacitors and is expected to be completed within the next nine to twelve months. The Department of Energy is supporting innovative technologies like TroyCap’s High Density Energy Nanolaminate Capacitor (HEDCAP) that may offer new clean energy applications to meet the nation’s strategic energy goals and secure America’s clean energy future.