Image showing the synthesis scheme for the pristine and densified materials. (Image Credit: The Authors. Advanced Science published by Wiley-VCH GmbH)
Why aren't supercaps in more devices? Like IoT things least?
Researchers from Imperial College London and University College London (UCL) developed an inexpensive, sustainable, and energy-dense electric material for supercapacitors that power electric vehicles. Ultimately, the team believes this high-power, quick charging electric vehicle technology could hit the market.
The researchers utilized lignin to produce free-standing electrodes that improve energy storage capacity. They state this new development, a cheaper and more sustainable solution to existing models, could be a game-changer for today's supercapacitor technology. It's also important to reduce carbon-based electrodes' production costs and rely less on critical materials if free-standing supercapacitors make vehicles carbon-free.
Their free-standing structure doesn't rely on graphene-based carbon, making it lighter and smaller than existing models and doesn't sacrifice energy storage capacity. These could have applications in short-distance EVs such as taxis, buses, and trams since they could charge while passengers enter and exit a vehicle.
"Supercapacitors are an ideal candidate for electric transportation within urban centres, where pollution is an increasingly pressing concern. However, they are often overlooked because of the high cost of production," says Dr. Maria Crespo Ribadeneyra from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial. "Our research is based on a low-cost and sustainable bio-based material that can store more energy per unit volume than many other expensive alternatives. This is particularly important in the automotive sector, where optimisation of the space and the costs of the components is crucial."
"Creating sustainable multifunctional materials from waste biomass streams such as lignin will enable a sustainable and affordable supply chain for energy materials in the future and will eliminate our dependence on critical materials like lithium," says Professor Magda Titirici from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial. "The idea of pressing several free-standing carbon papers together to store more charge in a small volume is innovative and holds potential for future structural development. Imagine that instead of the electrodes being supported in a phone case or on a car roof, they are the case or roof."
The newly-developed technique involves utilizing electrospun lignin nanofiber mats that were compressed together to create a dense structure. Afterward, the team tailored the electrodes' internal microstructure. This was achieved by minimizing the number of micrometer-sized pores that don't help with energy storage. They also managed to keep the porosity of each fiber that stores an electric charge. The team viewed the internal microstructures in 3D via advanced imaging.
Now, the team is exploring ways to commercialize this technology. Developments are underway for a new supercapacitor with an inexpensive electrolyte that can be integrated into devices.
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