Using a clever combination of materials and design, engineers have made a battery-like device that is strong enough to provide mechanical support. A new battery-like energy-storing device is also tough enough to provide protection and mechanical support. The device could lead to extra power stored in structures such as phone cases, electric vehicle frames and ship hulls.

That would mean EVs that drive longer between charges, powered partly by the material they are built from. “This can extend the operational time of electronic systems, like in submersibles for ocean explorations or in consumer electronics—imagine longer operating time for airpods,” says Tina Ng, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of California San Diego.

The device that Ng and her colleagues reported in the journal Science Advances is a supercapacitor. Much like batteries, supercapacitors are energy-storing devices with two electrodes and an electrolyte. The two devices complement each other, because batteries can deliver energy for a long time, while supercapacitors provide quick bursts of power for things like acceleration.

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