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Scientists Test Modified Carbon Fibers for Potential Use as Battery

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While owners of conventional vehicles prioritize mileage, owners of electric vehicles (EVs) prioritize range. While newer EVs boast a more extensive range than older models — the 2019 Chevy Bolt EV, for instance, can travel 238 miles on a single charge — researchers are still brainstorming ways to increase these ratings.

The research

A team of researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has found that modified carbon fibers can work as battery electrodes. The scientists discovered that large carbon fibers oriented in the same direction are the most rigid, but hold electric charge poorly. Small carbon fibers are great at storing electricity but they’re not so great when it comes to orientation. Thus, the researchers reduced the size of the carbon fibers and manipulated their orientation. The modified fibers were sturdy and stored electricity well.

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The implications

Since carbon fiber is a common material in a vehicle’s outer shell, this means that the car itself could potentially be used as a battery. Leif Asp, professor of material and computational mechanics at Chalmers University of Technology, elaborates on the group’s findings. “It will also be possible to use the carbon fiber for other purposes such as harvesting kinetic energy, for sensors or for conductors of both energy and data. If all these functions were part of a car or aircraft body, this could reduce the weight by up to 50 percent.”

So, if EV body frames used this modified carbon fiber, it might eliminate the need for the traditional heavy lithium-ion batteries. That would reduce the overall weight of the vehicle while boosting the electric range. It’s an innovative discovery that could revolutionize the way the industry views EV battery systems.

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News Sources: Popular MechanicsChalmers University