Advancements in supercapacitors could revolutionise battery technology

A team of researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has created a technique that may lead to a breakthrough in the production of micro-supercapacitors.

Supercapacitors could represent a revolution in the production of advanced battery technology, from enhancing their lifespan, to allowing for incredibly fast charging. As a result, producers of everything from smartphones to electric vehicles are heavily investing into the research and development of these unique electronic components.

Optimising manufacturing

“When discussing new technologies, it is easy to forget how important the manufacturing method is, so that they can actually be commercially produced and be impactful in society. Here, we have developed methods that can really work in production,” explained Agin Vyas, doctoral student at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers University of Technology, and lead author of the article.

Supercapacitors comprise of two electrical conductors divided by an insulating layer. They are capable of storing electrical energy and contain numerous encouraging properties that contrast those in a typical battery, including far more rapid charging, more effective energy distribution, and a greater lifespan without damage to performance.

When a supercapacitor is merged with a battery in an electrically powered product, it is possible for the battery life to be extended several times – up to four times for commercial electric vehicles.

This technology, whether for individual electronic devices or industrial technologies, could have massive benefits for manufacturers and consumers alike.

“It would of course be very convenient to be able to quickly charge, for example, an electric car or not have to change or charge batteries as often as we currently do in our smartphones. But it would also represent a great environmental benefit and be much more sustainable, if batteries had a longer lifespan and did not need to be recycled in complicated processes,” commented Vyas.

Developing micro-supercapacitors

Currently, the supercapacitors in use are too big for various applications where, if they were smaller, they could be valuable. In order for supercapacitors to function, they must be around the same size as the battery they are connected to.

Currently, this is a barrier to combining them in technologies such as mobile phones or electric vehicles. As a result, a significant component of today’s research and development of supercapacitors is focused on making them much smaller, so they can be applied to a wider range of technologies.

Vyas and his team have been occupied with creating micro-supercapacitors, which are so small that they can fit on the system circuits that control numerous functions in mobile phones, computers, electric motors and virtually all electronics used today. This solution is known as a ‘system-on-a-chip’.

Integrating micro-supercapacitors

One of the most significant difficulties is that the minimal units necessary to be produced so that they become reconcilable with other elements in a system circuit and can effortlessly be customised for various applications.

The researchers’ novel paper reveals a production method in which micro-supercapacitors are combined with the most common way of manufacturing system circuits (known as CMOS).

“We used a method known as spin coating, a cornerstone technique in many manufacturing processes. This allows us to choose different electrode materials. We also use alkylamine chains in reduced graphene oxide, to show how that leads to a higher charging and storage capacity,” added Vyas.

“Our method is scalable and would involve reduced costs for the manufacturing process. It represents a great step forward in production technology and an important step towards the practical application of micro-supercapacitors in both everyday electronics and industrial applications,” he concluded.

As well as this, a technique has been established for developing micro-supercapacitors of up to ten different materials in one unified manufacturing process, which means that properties can be modified to suit various different end applications.

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