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A power suit created by NASA and UFC can boost the power capacity of EVs

It is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum.

Inspired by the suit of Black Panther of Marvel Comics, researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and NASA have developed a power suit for electric vehicles as strong as steel and lighter than aluminum which can boost the vehicle’s power capacity, a press release reveals.  

“Our idea is to use the body shells to store energy to supplement the power stored in batteries,” says study co-author Jayan Thomas, the team leader and a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and Department of Materials Science and Engineering

The suit could have applications in various technologies that require lightweight power sources, from electric vehicles to spacecraft, airplanes, drones, portable devices, and wearable technologies.

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It can also increase the range of EVs

“The advantage is that this composite can reduce the weight of your car and increase the miles per charge,” Thomas says. “It is as strong as or even stronger than steel but much lighter.”

The suit is made of layered carbon composite material. Due to its unique design at the nanoscale level, it works as an energy-storing supercapacitor-battery hybrid device. 

Creating positively and negatively charged carbon fiber layers makes an energy-storing and robust composite when stacked and attached in an alternating pattern.

Nanoscale graphene sheets attached to the carbon fiber layers allow for increased charge storing ability, while metal oxides deposited on attached electrodes enhance voltage and provide higher energy density. 

When used as a car body shell, the material could increase an electric car’s range by 25 percent and reduce its overall weight.

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Using the material as a supercapacitor would boost an electric vehicle's power, providing the extra push to go from zero to 60 mph in 3 seconds.

On cars, the supercapacitor composite material would get its power through charging, like a battery, and when the car brakes, Thomas says.

“Its charge-discharge cycle life is ten times longer than an electric car battery,” he adds.

The materials used are also nontoxic and nonflammable, which is very important for passenger safety in case of an accident.

Due to its unique design that uses multiple layers of carbon fiber, the material has significant impact and bending strength, essential for withstanding an auto collision and necessary tensile strength.

Study co-author Kowsik Sambath Kumar, a doctoral student in Thomas’ lab, developed a way to align nanoscale graphene on carbon fiber electrodes vertically. “Now in electric cars, the battery is 30 to 40 percent of the weight,” he says. “With this energy storing composite we can get additional mileage without increasing the battery weight. Whenever you decrease that weight, you can increase the range, so this has huge applications in electric cars and aviation.”

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“There are lots of potential infusion points within the economy as well as for future space exploration,” Luke Roberson, study co-author and a senior principal investigator for research and development at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, says.

So it looks like the future of electric vehicles and space exploration will include a power suit.

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