Reducing Material Costs is the Key to Ensuring the Price Competitiveness of Ultracapacitors

Nov 29, 2005, 00:00 ET from Frost & Sullivan

    PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- With their inherent potential
 to deliver instantaneous power, ultracapacitors provide a distinct advantage
 over conventional batteries and are slowly penetrating various niche
 applications that demand quick bursts of power.  However, with their costs
 estimated at three to five times that of batteries, their ability to compete
 with the conventional batteries in terms of cost is likely to decide the pace
 of adoption of this technology in the market.
     Materials used in the ultracapacitor accounts for approximately 50 to 65
 percent of the system's total cost.  Among these materials, activated carbon
 is one of the most expensive used.  It attracts few suppliers because it is
 not used by any other industry and is produced in small quantities.
     However, in an attempt to make the ultracapacitor technology cost
 competitive with respect to competing technologies, leading research
 institutions and companies are working at producing alternate materials that
 are less expensive and at the same time store more energy.
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     The two main types of carbon being researched by ultracapacitor
 manufacturers are the phenyl resin-based carbon and the pitch-based carbon.
 While pitch-based carbon costs about one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of phenyl
 resin carbon, it does not offer the flexibility to control its pore size,
 resulting in 30 percent less capacitance when compared to the phenyl-based
     Also, despite their high power density, high cycle efficiency and long
 cycle, ultracapacitors suffer from low energy densities compared to
 rechargeable batteries.  In addressing this concern, researchers and industry
 participants are working on tailoring the porosity of carbon so as to achieve
 a higher energy density.
     "Researchers at the electrochemistry laboratory, Paul Scherrer Institute,
 Switzerland have carried out fundamental research on the capacitance limits of
 activated carbon, degradation mechanisms, and lifetime aspects and have
 reported that carbons with surface area greater than 1500 m2/g do not increase
 capacitance," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Viswanathan Krishnan
     Among the competing battery technologies, lead acid batteries and Li-ion
 batteries are considered the most formidable threat to ultracapacitors.  While
 the price pressure currently applied by lead batteries on the development of
 ultracapacitors is very high, ultracapacitors can be seen as having certain
 advantages over alternate battery technologies and factors such as
 performance, price and speed of implementation are likely to determine the
 predominance of either technology.
     "The ultracapacitors' competence to meet the power burst requirements of
 applications such as regenerative braking and catalyst pre-heating has
 motivated automobile manufacturers to pursue this technology," says Krishnan.
 "In addition, apart from being considered for various applications such as
 consumer electronics, computer electronics, industrial and power applications,
 ultracapacitors also find use in renewable applications such as fuel cells
 that demand power surges."
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     Ultracapacitors - Global Trends and Developments (Technical Insights)
      Trisha Bradley
      Corporate Communications - North America
      P: 210.247.3870
      F: 210.348.1003
      Magdalena Oberland
      Corporate Communications - Europe
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      Corporate Communications - Asia Pacific
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     Keywords in this release: ultracapacitors, activated carbon, phenyl resin-
 based carbon, pitch-based carbon, power density, cycle efficiency, energy
 density, regenerative braking, catalyst pre-reheating, research, information,
 market, trends

SOURCE Frost & Sullivan