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Last updated: 18 Jan, 2016  

Electronics.9.Thmb.jpg India making super capacitors for strategic use

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Fakir Balaji | 18 Jan, 2016
India has developed super capacitors using indigenous materials for strategic use in defence and space sectors as an import substitute and to overcome energy deficiencies in critical equipment, a senior official said.

"We have developed super capacitors of different voltage for specific use in defence and space equipment as they store more energy than ordinary capacitors and discharge faster than batteries," Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET) director Arun Sachdeva told agency in Bengaluru.

The state-run C-MET, under the department of electronics and information technology, (DeitY) has developed the super capacitors under a pilot project at its Thrissur laboratory in Kerala and given them for trials to state-run defence and space agencies in the country as a power source for diverse applications.

"Once we complete testing in trials and standardise them for strategic use, we will transfer the technology to the private sector for volume production under our supervision, as they can also be used for industrial and consumer needs," Sachdeva said at an electronics' summit here recently.

As super capacitors use electrostatic double-layer capacitance instead of the conventional solid dielectric of ordinary capacitors, they are used in applications that require rapid charge or discharge rather than long-term compact energy storage.

"Besides defence equipment like battle tanks, radar-mounted vehicles and artillery guns, super capacitors can be used in space applications like satellites and launchers, as energy supply is critical for their operations," Sachdeva asserted.

Super capacitors or ultra capacitors are also used in high-end cars, luxury buses, high-speed trains, heavy-lifting cranes and speedy elevators in tall skyscrapers as regenerative braking, short-term energy storage.

As an autonomous scientific society, C-MET is mandated to attain self-sufficiency in electronic materials, components and devices for catering to the country's strategic and industrial applications with indigenous resources.

"There is a huge market potential for super capacitors in the country as they can store 10-100 times more energy per unit than electrolytic capacitors and bridge the gap between electrolytic capacitors and rechargeable batteries, Sachdeva noted.

The centre, which has two more labs at Hyderabad in Telangana and Pune in Maharashtra, had invested around Rs.2 crore-Rs.5 crore ($295,000-$738,000) to set up the facility for developing super capacitors of different voltage per unit volume or mass.

"In the absence of a fab (fabrication plant) to make silicon wafers, we have to import them in the form of chips for making super capacitors, using graphene-based electrodes with raw materials like carbon aerogel," Sachdeva admitted.

As storage device with fast charging ability, superior low temperature performance, long service, cycle life and reliability, super capacitors have the potential to replace traditional batteries and capacitors in a wide range of electronic applications for defence, space, automotive and renewable energy.

According to a joint market study by the New Delhi-based Electronics Industries Association of India (Elcina) in partnership with the Mumbai-based multi-country market research firm IMRB, the super capacitor market worldwide is estimated to reach $8.3 billion by 2025, growing at 30 percent over the next 10 years.

"Super capacitor technology has not yet been commercialised in India and is not yet common in use due to high costs initially and low-energy density. Only C-MET is working on indigenous production of carbon aerogel-based super capacitors," Elcina president Vikram Desai told IANS on the margins of 'Electronics India Week', a three-day summit held here last week.

When super capacitors are developed for use across industrial and consumer verticals and produced in volumes, they will become affordable by its makers and end-users spanning transportation, wind energy, solar energy, consumer electronics and strategic sectors like defence and space.

The total addressable market for super capacitors in India is 1.3 billion units by 2020. In defence applications, the market size is projected to be Rs.20 crore-Rs.50 crore over the next four years.

Tata Motors has been testing super capacitors for hybrid electrical vehicles, while three private firms - Spel and Chheda Electrical at Pune and Aartech Solonics at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh are involved in developing them in the private sector.
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