Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Artificial Muscles And Supercapacitors

For [Lloyd T Cannon III]’s entry to the Hackaday Prize, he’s doing nothing less than changing the way everything moves. For the last 100 years, internal combustion engines have powered planes, trains, and automobiles, and only recently have people started looking at batteries and electric motors. With his supercapacitors and artificial muscles, [Lloyd] is a few decades ahead of everyone else.

There are two parts to [Lloyd]’s project, the first being the energy storage device. He’s building a Lithium Sulfur Silicon hybrid battery. Li-S-Si batteries have the promise to deliver up to 2000 Watt hours per kilogram of battery. For comparison, even advanced Lithium batteries top out around 2-300 Wh/kg. That’s nearly an order of magnitude difference, and while it’s a far way off from fossil fuels, it would vastly increase the range of electric vehicles and make many more technologies possible.

The other part of [Lloyd]’s project is artificial muscles. Engines aren’t terribly efficient, and electric motors are only good if you want to spin things. For robotics, muscles are needed, and [Lloyd] is building them out of fishing line. These muscles contract because of the resistive heating of a carbon fiber filament embedded in the muscle. It’s been done before, but this is the first project we’ve seen that replicates the technique in a garage lab.

Both parts of [Lloyd]’s project are worthy of a Hackaday Prize entry alone, but putting them together as one project more than meets the goal: to build something that matters.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

29 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Artificial Muscles And Supercapacitors

  1. “and only recently have people started looking at batteries and electric motors” I think electric motors predate internal combustion by about 50 years and there were plenty of early electric cars. Internal combustion got better quicker.

    1. The writer means that people have recently began to seriously consider batteries and electric motors as viable alternatives for applications that have previously been dominated by fossil fuel burning motors.

          1. I don’t know about three way splits, but the different technologies were pervasive enough that California had generated statistics and feasibility reports at least twice, possibly three times since its adaptation into the union.

            IIRC, the first study involved steam, electric, gas and diesel as well as two other engine types which escapes me at the moment. Sometime around the mid century. Gas was selected primarily due to cost of the fuel.

            The second study happened around the big fuel shortage. Same list except Steam was not included and another engine type took the slot (I want to say jet but that might not be right). Same result, gas, despite the shortage, was cheaper and more economical.

            Electric was discarded for the same reason each time, range.

            Unfortunately, I don’t think those studies are digitized but you can go visit those State Archives and request the records. Sorry, I don’t recall the record numbers.

            Point is, at least California was considering the use of steam as a primary means of locomotion as late as the 40’s or thereabouts.

          2. Sorry… to clarify. The point of both studies (if I understood all the legal squawking) was to determine where to invest the money for the accompanying infrastructure, zoning requirements, etc.

  2. Exactly, thanks :-) Electric motors have been perfect (!) for propelling vehicles from the very beginning, but the problem of storing the electric energy as dense as the chemical energy (gas) has never been effectively solved, up to the present day.

      1. yah its been solved there are a few papers on lithium sulfur silicon kicking around the internet. The problem lies in getting more charge cycles and a longer life… The majority of what I am focusing on.

        The funny thing is at 10 times the energy storage even 50 life cycles gives the battery more power over its life than a standard lithium ion.

      1. lol wikipedia, not even gonna touch that source.

        did you even do a search for lithium sulfur silicon? One Chinese study had an initial discharge of 4200 mAh per gram at 95% efficiency to conversion with an electric motor that is about 25% better than gasoline.

        1. They are not fundamentally any different than any other alkali metal – sulfur battery. You keep your sulfur molten, and it works. But lab studies don’t comment on the amount of insulation required to maintain operating temperature, the energy required melt the sulfur in the first place.

  3. I’ve been making artificial muscle in my garage for over two years using nylon cord. Just the other day I had it attached to a fly wheel and was planning on doing some motorized studies in the Spring.

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