Minimizing the use of oil in the US economy requires the invention of advanced energy storage devices that provide orders-of-magnitude efficiency gains over present commercial technology. The application of enhanced CNT ultracapacitors in the automotive, aviation, and military represents an enormous market, in which costs will be driven down and innovation will penetrate industries that might not otherwise pursue cutting edge science and engineering due to the inherent risk (and cost) associated with it. Many other applications arise in consumer and industrial electronics, usually in situations where portability is needed and where fast charging capability is also desired. These applications may not be as critical to national security and well-being as those in transportation, but they represent large markets nonetheless. Ultracapacitors possess much higher energy density than conventional capacitors, and their power density is far superior to that of batteries including fuel cells, resulting in enhanced efficiency and space and weight savings, which will benefit each of the above applications. The ability to fabricate these ultracapacitors using commonly-used environmentally-friendly techniques will facilitate their widespread commercialization.
NASA applications of ultracapacitors include Lunar and Martian surface vehicles and sensor platforms. Vehicle ultracapacitors will serve as independent power sources or back-up power sources to the high capacity batteries propelling electric vehicles by providing high power output necessary during acceleration, uphill climbing, and braking. In the case of sensor platforms ultracapacitors may improve the efficiency of charging by solar power. Among the many other ultracapacitor applications are power sources for portable electronic equipment, such as diagnostic devices and power tools. Ultracapacitors may also provide backup or bridge power for sensors and control systems for aircraft and spacecraft. Ultracapacitors, in fact, address a wide range of space-based applications, including deep-space missions, manned and unmanned planetary exploration, and space-station missions. Ultracapacitors combined with battery technology can power spacecraft, as well as the aforementioned lunar surface mobility systems and portable electronic equipment. Future missions will probe deeper into space and will utilize a wide array of advanced electronic instrumentation and electric propulsion systems. Consequently, compact, on-board electrical power generation, energy storage, and power management will be central to the success of these missions.