Unlocking the Power of the Ultracapacitor

Achievement date: 
2014
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Dr. Jim Zheng, a professor at Florida A&M University (FAMU), Florida State University (FSU) College of Engineering, and the Advanced Storage sub-thrust leader at the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) based at North Carolina State University (NCSU), has launched a new startup company to commercialize his world-leading work on supercapacitor technology. The new venture, General Capacitor, will transform Zheng’s “ultracapacitor” inventions into commercially viable products that can positively impact society. FREEDM is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC).

Impact/benefits: 

Supercapacitors offer significant advantages over rechargeable batteries and are therefore expected to play a major role in future energy usage and storage needs. Zheng’s new technology addresses current supercapacitor weaknesses that have previously limited their effective and widespread use as compared to traditional rechargeable battery technology.

Explanation/Background: 

While supercapicitors charge and discharge energy very rapidly and last much longer than traditional rechargeable batteries overall, they typically have a smaller pool of energy from which to draw. This weakness currently limits how and where supercapacitors can be used. In contrast, Zheng’s ultracapacitor technology significantly increases the energy pool to open up a range of new uses in areas such as the automotive and alternative energy industries.

Full production of a commercial product is expected in two to three years. Examples of potential uses include rapid-charge electric buses for city transportation; buffers for short-term power grid outages; reliable power burst technology for heavy lifting equipment such as forklifts; and more effective fuel cell-powered automobiles.

General Capacitor’s research and development operations will be housed in the Tallahassee, FL area to ensure close collaboration is maintained with Zheng. This is the second startup company Zheng has launched. His first company, Bing Energy, is focused on commercializing fuel cell technology he developed at FSU/FAMU.