Supercapacitors Can Now Replace Batteries

February 28, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Accidents just happen. Science has witnessed a lot of experiments and discoveries turning out from accidents. We have heard of scientists who tried to find something but ended up discovering something else.

They have all realized that the greatness of their discoveries had a purpose better suited for a different life application than what was intended in the beginning.

The same thing happened when a team of scientists, led by chemist Richard Kaner, at UCLA experimented with a method to produce graphene, a single layer carbon material, very strong and flexible of its kind.

Micro-supercapacitor

Though the 2010 Nobel Prize had been won for graphene production method, it was an impractical solution for mass production. Aware of this, the UCLA team found out a very cheap method for making graphene sheets with the help of an ordinary DVD burner.

They used graphite oxide, a water dispersible material, to coat it on a plastic sheet and burned it on a DVD burner.

The result was pure organic graphene sheet. The discovery itself was revolutionary, but they stumbled upon another exciting realization when Maher El-Kady, a researcher in the team charged up a thin graphene sheet to light up a small light bulb.

After charging for three seconds, the sheet was able to keep the bulb burning for over five minutes.  That made an extraordinary idea of supercapacitor, or what they call super supercapacitor, that combines the best traits of a battery and a capacitor.

The discovery means that you could make a storage source to charge up and discharge in a matter of seconds, and can store high potential of energy.

It has been a year since Kaner and his team has brewed up this technology. They have been polishing the supercapacitor technology ever since and now they have a more efficient way for manufacturing graphene on a mass scale. The recent issue of Nature Communications has published their report on this.

It says, with a single disc, it is possible to produce 100 micro-supercapacitors with the power density of ~200 W cm−3 in just 30 minutes of time.

Imagine if this is going to be implemented in consumer level electronics, we will be seeing our smartphones charging up in seconds and staying alive for days together.

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