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The global market for ultracapacitors is estimated to reach $625 million in 2013, of which North America will have $200 million (about one-third of the total market). According to a recently published report from iRAP, the market will increase to $1.4 billion by 2018 with a compound annual growth rate of 17.5%. North America will continue to maintain its share in the next five years. The North American market will be followed by Japan, China, Europe and Korea. China and Korea will see larger growth rates of above 20% annually.
The consumer electronics and computer market needs small high-frequency devices in order to reduce battery size. Typical applications are pagers, personal data assistance devices and cell phones. The GSM phone will require a 200 Hz response time to improve the transmit burst in a digital phone system. In these devices, high power is more important than energy density. Therefore, to get the desired frequency response, ultracapacitors will use aqueous electrolytes that provide much lower resistance. To attain these frequencies, carbon electrodes need to be thin, with large pores for rapid ion transport through the material.
The transport energy storage market aims to use ultracapacitors as load-leveling devices with batteries in electric and hybrid vehicles. By far the highest value target for ultracapacitor technology is the global automobile industry. Automotive applications range from hybrid drive trains to power network stabilization to the “electrification” of braking, steering, air conditioning and other subsystems to improve the fuel efficiency and reliability of the 50-60 million passenger vehicles that roll off assembly lines around the world each year. With new no-idle regulations and evolving emissions standards this year, providers are looking to new solutions for better fuel economy and more efficient energy storage technology. For start/stop applications, manufacturers will increasingly look to ultracapacitors to deliver power efficiently and affordably.
The ultracapacitor business is currently undergoing a major structural shift caused by several developments in nanostructured carbon, carbon nanotubes, low-cost graphitic carbon, barium titanate ceramic electrodes and NGP electrodes. Research on new asymmetrical ultracapacitors (nickel hydroxides, ruthenium oxide) and new hybrid technologies (lithium-ion supercapacitors and nickel carbon supercapacitors) challenges the status quo. The high capacitance associated with graphene appears to be an edge effect, and it is predicted that by 2018, cost-effective manufacturing of grapheme-based electrodes will be a reality.
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