The Graphene-Based Supercapacitors: High-Performance Next-Generation Energy Storage

The Graphene-Based Supercapacitors: High-Performance Next-Generation Energy Storage

A research team led by Professor Dan Li of the Department of Materials Engineering at Melbourne’s Monash University claim to have developed of a new scalable and cost-effective technique to engineer graphene-based supercapacitors that brings them a step closer to commercial development, making them viable for widespread use in renewable energy storage, portable electronics and electric vehicles.

Supercapacitors(SC) — which are typically composed of highly porous carbon that is impregnated with a liquid electrolyte — are known for possessing an almost indefinite lifespan and the impressive ability to recharge extremely rapidly, in seconds even. But existing versions also possess a very low energy-storage-to-volume ratio — in other words, a low energy density. Because of this low energy density — 5-8 Watt-hours per liter in most supercapacitors — they’re not practical for most purposes. They would either need to be extremely large or be recharged very, very often for most uses.

Professor Dan Li and his team at Monash University’s Department of Materials Engineering has created a graphene-based supercapacitor with an energy density of 60 Wh/liter, which is around 12 times higher than that of commercially available supercapacitors and in the same league as lead-acid batteries. The device also lasts as long as a conventional battery.

"It has long been a challenge to make SCs smaller, lighter and compact to meet the increasingly demanding needs of many commercial uses," Professor Li said.

Graphene, which is formed when graphite is broken down into layers one atom thick, is very strong, chemically stable and an excellent conductor of electricity.

To maximize the energy density, the team created a compact electrode from an adaptive graphene gel film they had previously developed. To control the spacing between graphene sheets on the sub-nanometer scale, the team used liquid electrolytes, which are generally used as the conductor in conventional supercapacitors.

Monash University researchers have created a compact electrode that uses a liquid electrolyte to maintain space between graphene sheets

Unlike in conventional, “hard” porous carbon, where space is wasted with unnecessarily large “pores,” density is maximized without compromising porosity in Professor Li’s electrode. To create its material, the research team used a method similar to that used in traditional paper-making, meaning the process could be easily and cost-effectively scaled up for industrial use.

"We have created a macroscopic graphene material that is a step beyond what has been achieved previously. It is almost at the stage of moving from the lab to commercial development," Professor Li said.

The work was supported by the Australian Research Council.
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Write by: RC - Monday, August 5, 2013

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