Paula Hammond On Creating Batteries That Release Energy Rapidly

Here comes the next generation of innovators revolutionizing batteries. Paula Hammond makes superthin batteries that can store a lot of energy and discharge—and charge—rapidly.

Paula Hammond
Photo by Trevor Paulhus

Paula Hammond
Professor of Chemical Engineering
MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Hammond, 48, and fellow MIT researchers make superthin batteries that can store a lot of energy and discharge—and charge—rapidly.

"We make a battery with carbon nanotubes as the electrode. These materials give us behavior that is like a traditional battery in that it relies on chemical reactions, but they also give us behavior like a regular capacitor—which stores energy without using any chemical reactions. This is important because, while batteries store a lot of energy, you generally can't pull that energy down rapidly, which means they're low power. That limits them when you need a surge of power—for starting a car engine, for instance. Electrochemical capacitors, on the other hand, discharge the energy they store rapidly. Those carbon nanotubes help us have both of the good things: We can get battery-style energy-storage capability with extremely high power, so energy can be released rapidly."

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