Graphene is the end result of reducing graphite, the same carbon material in pencils, to layers only one atom thick. Both graphite and graphene are very strong, stable, and excellent conductors. While most people associate graphite with pencils, its individual layers can have a major impact on energy storage. Graphene energy storage is more compact, but lasts nearly as long as a typical battery.
The Department of Materials Engineering is developing new graphene supercapacitors. Professor Dan Yi is leading the research team to make these supercapacitors (SC) more efficient than current iterations. Typically, SCs have an unlimited lifespan – that is, they don’t suffer from the memory effect of normal batteries – but they have to be incredibly large to accommodate the energy density. The energy density is the ratio of energy capacity versus the volume of the container. Smaller supercapacitors would need to be recharged frequently, but can be charged very quickly.
Professor Yi’s team has developed graphene supercapacitors that hold 12 times the energy density of a typical SC. They use a graphene gel film they developed themselves, soaked in an electrolyte solution to regulate the spacing of the atoms. This spacing is as small as possible to make the electricity conducting gaps, or “pores,” more numerous. Other supercapacitors have very large pores, leading to oversized devices.
The end result of Professor Yi’s research is an effective, compact supercapacitor that can be charged and recharged an innumerable amount of times at a very high rate. Their effective use time is nearly the same length as that of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but without the damaging memory effect, they will always recharge to the same capacity over and over again. Typical rechargeable batteries will have their life shortened significantly after about 500 recharges.
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Note: Post this blog after “The Memory Effect” and link “the memory effect” in paragraph 2 to that blog.