back to article MIT profs produce 'Ring of Fire' nanotube superbatteries

MIT boffins say they have discovered a radical new source of portable energy, powered by a burning ring of fire, which can hold a hundred times as much juice as a li-ion battery. The key, of course, is nanotubes. As you do, the boffins at MIT decided to coat some of these amazing cylindrical carbon molecules with "a layer of …


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  1. Mike 140


    "Ring of Fire", and not even an allusion to curry.

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Paris Hilton

      Why do I need a title here?

      Well that bran vindaloo I had last night certainly enabled me to produce lots on nanotubes today.

      "The researchers say that their new firepowered battery tech holds a hundred times as much energy, weight for weight, as the same weight of lithium ion batteries."

      Excellent, we should be able to get an exploding iPod into orbit soon, possibly an ipod ‘nano’. How about using one to power vulture 1

      Paris, she knows how to handle nanotubes (and some bigger ones)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Burn,Burn,Burn (as the song goes)

    I thought the Australians invented that last week after their Vindaloo against Violence campaign!

  3. Linbox

    Heat+light+huge energy...

    ... does seem to describe a bomb rather than a battery. Have the boffins accidentally discovered nano-glycerine?

    1. Liam Johnson


      10,000 burn speed and extremely high volatge peaks seems more like the basis for an EMP bomb than a mobile phone.

      1. Alan Esworthy
        Big Brother


        "a great deal of power being given off as heat and light"

        Hmmm. A buckeyball with a bit of deuterium in the center, a bristling shell of equal-length nanotube fire-rings with their outer ends gathered, and an igniter.

        Oops. We won't see anything more in the news about this discovery. At least until somebody sets off their watch-pocket thermonuclear device.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it 1st April, or 5th November?

    Never put these in your pockets, children.

  5. Stone Fox
    Thumb Up


    Someone get Mark Moore on the phone, the Puffin may yet fly!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The researchers say that their new firepowered battery tech holds a hundred times as much energy, weight for weight, as the same weight of lithium ion batteries."

    So, about the same specific energy as gasoline then. And they get the energy out by burning it?

    Why is this news?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      because as it's not based on expanding gasses an engine working on the same principle would take a tiny amount of fuel compared to an internal combustion engine. And it'd be especially useful on the smaller scales- awesome though it would be, I don't think having a V8 in my chest to power a pacemaker would be a good move.

      Plus, by the sounds of it, it'll not lose stored energy as time goes on- so for long-term storage it'll be great!

      Combined with a good, efficient electric motor you could have a car with the power and range of a petrol car with the awesome torque of an electric one- and one with a pretty small fuel bill. You could even make a profit if you had, say, a cow to provide fuel and slaughtered/sold it at the end of its life.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Have they invented the propellant for the EMP bomb?

  8. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Exploding laptops on planes are a bit of a worry.

    Is it actually rechargeable? If it is like most things in "The Lord of the Rings" then when it's used up that is that, e.g. elves.

  9. Parax

    So The EMP 'Pinch' just became real.

    that is all.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Powered by...

    ...hydrogen or as they call it in the lab, Preparation H.

  11. Steven Jones

    "Highly Reactive"

    It would be interesting to know what this "highly reactive fuel" is. The best conventional Li-Ion batteries yield about 0.75MJ/Kg. However, there are "nanowire" Li-Ion prototypes which achieve about 2.5MJ/Kg.

    Against that, the highest energy density of any chemical (per unit mass) is Hydrogen at 143MJ/Kg whilst hydrocarbons come in at about 56MJ/Kg or lower. This does not include the mass of any oxidising agent. Note that this is the raw energy obtained in burning the stuff. Efficiency of conversion into electricity starts at about 80% (with fuel cells) and then goes down with other methods.

    So we are faced with the best possible chemical energy source only being about 60 times more energy dense than the best Li-Ion batteries (making 100x impossible). That's before all the mass of the nanotube device itself, fuel storage an so on is taken into account (storing hydrogen under pressure requires a container which weighs more than the fuel).

  12. Britt Johnston
    IT Angle

    back-burner project

    They were making a turbo-heater, and got an unexpected shock. This is the other way round to Li-ion batteries, then.

  13. Neil Shepherd

    Ahead of The Game?

    Could this be conencted to all those Sony batteries that (supposedly) burst into flames? Everyone assumed it was just crap manufacturing/design when it was fact 'the future' =:S

  14. Richard Gadsden 1

    Well, they are using high explosive as "fuel"

    Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine is the fuel. That's better known as RDX, the active ingredient in, for example, Semtex and composition C - but also in Torpex, the explosive in the bombs dropped on Germany in WWII.

    The IUPAC name for those who can work out structures from such is 1,3,5-Trinitroperhydro-1,3,5-triazine, or C3H6N6O6, which will happily decompose to 3CO, 3H20 and 3N2. REF is 1.6.

    I can just imagine the reaction of airlines to the discovery that a new generation of laptop batteries were made from high explosives.

  15. archengel46
    Thumb Up


    Hey, maybe Apple actually use these batteries in their iProducts?

    And again, going by the dismal battery life, maybe not...

    What a strano idea...

  16. DelM


    OK - I know that beloved Bldg. 20 was knocked down for a Gates-funded monstrosity, but is there some other reason for the M$ logo that adorns this article in its mid-page-trio slot?

    Sign me, "puzzled MIT alum".

  17. Stuart Halliday

    Long wait

    Wake us up when we actually have a working production prototype.

    Say in 6 years time....?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    I can only imagine that..

    They're using Copper nanotubes, so the world will be invaded by millions of burning

    Cu NanoTubes.

    I'd imagine that penicillin could be used to regulate the burning.

    I'll let you work the acronym out while I get my coat.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Roughly a thermal battery driven by a solid explosive fuel

    Thermal batteries are known tech in the military. with virtually zero self-discharge (The electrolyte needs to be molten before the ions move, several 100 degrees c at least) they have long shelf lives and can do high power pulses (always wondered why they were never tried for a sort of repeating laser cannon).

    If the actual material is not integral to the process then something like a thermite mixture (like that in thermal batteries) would be workable.

    The *likely* problem with this material is that it only works when it's been "ignited" in some way. Its a primary cell and it runs till exhaustion. Great for emergency equipment and missiles but not a good match for the iPod/Player/Tablet/Whatever.

    Nice piece of science though. Have a theory. Test it. Results *much* better than expected.

  20. Steve Roper

    "Gadget-related trouser inferno"

    Lewis, you've got to start doing stand-up. I know all my mates and I would definitely come to see your show!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Phaser battery?

    At long last, enough instantaneous juice to power the Trecki's handheld dream weapon.

    And Paris, because she knows how to handle trouser infernos.

  22. rick buck

    Burnin' Ring 'O Fire

    I think Elvis used one of these,

    and I'm sure I remember Johnny Cash

    singing of a "Burnin' Ring of Fire".

    ...and there were "Great Balls of Fire",

    probably just nested "Rings 'o Fire",

    in convenient ball shape.

    ...Toys of the Gods

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