A professor at the Queensland University of Technology, Australia, brought up a proposal that could revolutionize the carbon fiber industry by developing a material with extremely high efficiency for storing potential elastic energy on any scale. He created diamond “rubber bands”.
In Physics classes, you may have already encountered potential elastic energy. Basically, it is the energy stored from the application of a force to deform certain objects. Think, for example, of those small planes and helicopters with rubber bands attached to the propellers.
After spinning the propeller and twisting the material, when it is released, the toys fly away – precisely because of the energy that the elastics store. Haifei Zhan, a researcher responsible for the novelty, started from the same principle and designed carbon ribbons with a structure similar to that of precious stones, calling them diamond nanofibers.
The teacher explains: “Similar to a compressed spring or a rope toy for children, energy can be released as the twisted bundle of threads unfolds. If you can create a system to control the energy delivered by the nanowire package, this would be a safer and more stable energy storage solution for many applications. ”
Once the force on an item is removed, as in the case of the aforementioned propellers, the compressed, twisted or even stretched object releases all the concentrated energy to return to its original state. The same is true of Haifei Zhan’s solution. It is necessary to understand that any elastic object has a load limit, which, if exceeded, eliminates the energy storage capacity. When designed for this purpose, the limit is greater and its application can extend to several areas.
Speaking of diamond nanofibers, an energy density of 1.76 MJ per kilogram was found – four to five times greater than that of a conventional steel spring and up to three times greater than that of a lithium-ion battery. That is, it cannot be disregarded that they can be used as a power source for biomedical systems implanted to monitor cardiac and brain functions or even for small electronic robots.
“Bundles of carbon nanowires can be transformed into artificial muscles based on torsion wires that respond to electrical, chemical or photonic excitations. Unlike chemical storage, such as lithium-ion batteries, which use electrochemical reactions to store and release energy, a mechanical energy system alone would present comparatively much lower risks, ”says the researcher.
Future of technology
The interest of scientists and engineers in carbon fibers is already known, as its physical properties are capable of leveraging technological advances. The study represents a new step in this direction, since, according to him, diamond nanofibers not only have an excellent torsional deformation capacity, but also a high efficiency of interfacial charge transfer – originated from the contact of particles with different electrical charges.
Such properties, according to Haifei, suggest that the novelty is an excellent candidate for the construction of a new generation of fibers. Expectations for applicability are high. “The nanowire clusters can be used in state-of-the-art power transmission lines, aerospace electronics, batteries, smart textiles and structural composites, such as building materials,” he concludes.