According to a report from Penn State News, researchers have developed an “ideal” energy storage nanocomposite material for electric vehicles. The outer layers of the material are boron nitride nanosheets in a polymer matrix, and the central layer is a high dielectric constant material called barium titanate. The key to the nanocomposite’s success is a unique, 3D sandwich-like structure that protects the electric field in the composite from breaking down.

The new material, known as SSN-x, has several times the energy density of typical polymer nanocomposites. According to Penn State, this makes it highly preferable for electric vehicle and aerospace applications as an energy storage device because it can significantly reduce the size and weight of electronics while improving system performance and stability.

“Polymers are ideal for energy storage for transportation due to their light weight, scalability and high dielectric strength,” said Qing Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at Penn State and the leader of the research. “However, the existing commercial polymer used in hybrid and electric vehicles, called BOPP, cannot stand up to the high operating temperatures without considerable additional cooling equipment. This adds to the weight and expense of the vehicles.”

Wang says his team can operate the material at high temperatures for 24 hours straight over more than 30,000 cycles without degradation. A comparison of BOPP and the sandwich structure nanocomposite, shows that at 150 degrees C, SSN-x has essentially the same charge-discharge energy as BOPP at a typical operating temperature of 70 C.

Wang says the next step is to work with a company or with more resources to do processability studies to see if the material can be produced at a larger scale at a reasonable cost.

To read the full study, click here.