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Graphene supercapacitor holding promise for portable electronics

March 19, 2012 | Julien Happich | 222904301
Graphene supercapacitor holding promise for portable electronics Electrochemical capacitors (ECs), also known as supercapacitors or ultracapacitors, differ from regular capacitors that you would find in your TV or computer in that they store sustantially higher amounts of charges. They have garnered attention as energy storage devices as they charge and discharge faster than batteries, yet they are still limited by low energy densities, only a fraction of the energy density of batteries.
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An EC that combines the power performance of capacitors with the high energy density of batteries would represent a significant advance in energy storage technology. This requires new electrodes that not only maintain high conductivity but also provide higher and more accessible surface area than conventional ECs that use activated carbon electrodes.

Now researchers at UCLA have used a standard LightScribe DVD optical drive to produce such electrodes. The electrodes are composed of an expanded network of graphene a one-atom-thick layer of graphitic carbon that shows excellent mechanical and electrical properties as well as exceptionally high surface area. UCLA researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the California NanoSystems Institute have demonstrated high-performance graphene-based electrochemical capacitors that maintain excellent electrochemical attributes under high mechanical stress. The paper is published in the journal Science.

The process is based on coating a DVD disc with a film of graphite oxide that is then laser treated inside a LightScribe DVD drive to produce graphene electrodes. Typically, the performance of energy storage devices is evaluated by two main figures, the energy density and power density. Suppose we are using the device to run an electric car the energy density tells us how far the car can go a single charge whereas the power density tells us how fast the car can go. Here, devices made with Laser Scribed Graphene (LSG) electrodes exhibit ultrahigh energy density values in different electrolytes while maintaining the high power density and excellent cycle stability of ECs. Moreover, these ECs maintain excellent electrochemical attributes under high mechanical stress and thus hold promise for high power, flexible electronics.

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