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Microsupercapacitors enable powerful energy storage

09 Dec 2015  | Mike Williams

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Their energy density is due to the nature of laser-induced graphene (LIG). Tour and his group discovered last year that heating a commercial polyimide plastic sheet with a laser burned everything but the carbon from the top layer, leaving a form of graphene. But rather than a flat sheet of hexagonal rings of atoms, the laser left a spongy array of graphene flakes attached to the polyimide, with high surface area.

The researchers treated their LIG patterns, interdigitated like folded hands, with manganese dioxide, ferric oxyhydroxide or polyaniline through electrodeposition and turned the resulting composites into positive and negative electrodes. The composites could then be formed into solid-state microsupercapacitors with no need for current collectors, binders or separators.

Tour is convinced the day is coming when supercapacitors replace batteries entirely, as energy storage systems will charge in minutes rather than hours. "We're not quite there yet, but we're getting closer all the time," he said. "In the interim, they're able to supplement batteries with high power. What we have now is as good as some commercial supercapacitors. And they're just plastic."

Microsupercapacitors

Rice University scientists are making small, flexible microsupercapacitors in a room-temperature process they claim shows promise for manufacturing in bulk. The technique is based on their method to burn patterns of spongy graphene into plastic sheets with a commercial laser. (Credit: Tour Group/Rice University)

Rice graduate students Lei Li and Jibo Zhang and alumnus Zhiwei Peng are lead authors of the paper. Co-authors are Rice postdoctoral researchers Yongsung Ji, Nam Dong Kim, Gedeng Ruan and Yang Yang and graduate students Yilun Li, Ruquan Ye and Huilong Fei; Caitian Gao, a visiting graduate student at Rice from Lanzhou University, China; and Qifeng Zhong, a visiting graduate student at Rice from Southeast University, Nanjing, China.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and its Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative and the Chinese Scholarship Council supported the research.


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