Supercapacitor battery
University of Central Florida

Go ahead ask anyone the question “What’s the most annoying thing about a mobile phone these days?” and probably 8 out of 10 will say a “crap battery” which “runs out within the same freaking day”.

Now imagine if you could charge your mobile phone in the next few seconds, and after that you wouldn’t even need to charge that thing again after more than a week or so.

Yes lovely isn’t it? It has been a concept that has long been in research, and now a breakthrough from scientists from the University of Central Florida (UCF) just made it happen.

They have managed to create a supercapacitor battery that works like new even after recharging it for more than 30,000 times without any signs of degradation.

This concept of a supercapacitor battery could yield high-capacity, ultra-fast-charging batteries that last over 20 times longer than your usual lithium-ion cell that you have in your mobile phone right now.

 

What is a supercapacitor battery?

Supercapacitors also known as ultracapacitors or double-layer capacitors store electricity by physically separating the positive and negative charges unlike batteries which does so chemically.

 

How does a supercapacitor battery work?

These supercapacitors can be charged quickly because they store electricity statically on the surface of a material, similar to how static electricity that can build up on a balloon, but in this case, supercapacitors are much greater due to the extremely high surface area of their interior materials.

This requires “two-dimensional” material sheets with large surface areas that can hold lots of electrons.

Supercapacitor battery

 

What’s the challenge facing the researchers of today?

Up until now, much of the research that has been implemented used graphene as the “two-dimensional” material which resulted in limited success.

Yeonwoong “Eric” Jung from UCF added that it’s a challenge to integrate graphene with other materials used in supercapacitors.

“There have been problems in the way people incorporate these two-dimensional materials into the existing systems – that’s been a bottleneck in the field. We developed a simple chemical synthesis approach so we can very nicely integrate the existing materials with the two-dimensional materials,”

The scientists have even been looking into using nanomaterials to improve supercapacitors that could enhance or even replace batteries in electronic devices.

But that ended up as another setback, as a supercapacitor that held as much energy as a lithium-ion battery would have to be much, much larger.

 

So What Did They Do?

The team at UCF instead went on with what seemed a long shot with their supercapacitor research by applying newly discovered two-dimensional materials only a few atoms thick to supercapacitors.

To be honest, it wasn’t that ‘newly discovered’ at all as other scientists already knew that these materials held great promise for energy storage applications, but up until team UCF uncovered its hidden potential by developing a process for integrating those materials, no one thought that it could ever be this promising.

What they did was wrap two-dimensional metal materials (otherwise known as TMDs) which are just a few atoms thick around highly-conductive one-dimensional nanowires, letting electrons pass quickly from the core to the shell.

Supercapacitor battery

What did they come out with at the end?

A fast charging material with high energy and power density that’s relatively simple to produce.

 

Why doesn’t the supercapacitor battery show any signs of degradation after recharging it for more than 30,000 times?

Anyone with a mobile phone knows the problem:

After 18 months or so, it holds a charge for less and less time as the battery begins to degrade.

But that’s not what the supercapacitor hopes to bring to the table

UCF postdoctoral associate Nitin Choudhar says

“For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density and cyclic stability,”

The term ‘cyclic stability’ defines how many times it can be charged, drained and recharged before beginning to degrade.

We can see it much clearly if we take for instance a lithium-ion battery which can only be recharged fewer than 1,500 times without significant failure.

Whereas with the ‘limited success’ batch of supercapacitors with two-dimensional materials such as graphene can only be recharged a few thousand times more than the lithium-ion battery but not enough to make a significant difference.

But the new supercapacitor created via the new process at UCF broke what seemed near impossible, as the supercapacitor doesn’t degrade even after it’s been recharged 30,000 times.

 

 

How Supercapacitors can change the World

If supercapacitors were to be developed and commercialized, it would allow

  • Longer-range electric vehicles that can be charged in minutes rather than hours
  • Long-lasting (non-explosive) smartphones that can be charged in seconds
  • Grid or home energy storage solutions that drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

but for now, as Jung said.

“It’s not ready for commercialization,”

“But this is a proof-of-concept demonstration, and our studies show there are very high impacts for many technologies and it sure does look promising.”

 

Further Reading

Official Research Paper by University of Central Florida

 

Supercapacitors

 

What do you think of these new Supercapacitors?