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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