How long does your smartphone’s battery usually last? A mere day or two, I guess. Well, researchers at University of Central Florida (UCF) have successfully developed flexible supercapacitors which last 20 times longer than a usual lithium-ion battery and can be recharged up to 30,000 times — and still continue to work like new. The lithium batteries slowly start to degrade after repeated use for over 18 months.
Commenting on their achievement, Nitin Choudhary, a UCF postdoctoral associate working on the research says,
If they [user] were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week.
For those unaware, a supercapacitor works tremendously well in comparison to lithium-ion batteries because it works on the principle of electrostatics instead of chemistry to collect and store charge. They store charge on the surface of the material and do not require reactions to produce and conduct charges. But supercapacitors would be much larger in size than your normal batteries if they were to store the same amount of charge.
The scientists have overcome this dilemma by experimenting with the use of nanomaterials and applying ‘two-dimensional’ material sheets – which are only a few atoms thick – that can hold a large number of electrons. Earlier, the integration of this 2D layer to the supercapacitor would also pose a problem but UCF researchers have developed a chemical synthesis approach to simplify the same. They’re using graphene to increase the charge collection surface area and the battery’s lifespan — which is whole another challenge the team worked on.
Yeonwoong “Eric” Jung, an assistant professor at UFC states that the team has developed supercapacitors by wrapping nanometer-thick wires with two-dimensional materials. This creates a highly conductive core which facilitates rapid electron transfer for fast charging and discharging of the material.
For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density and cyclic stability,
The researchers further mention the development of supercapacitors is just a proof-of-concept and aren’t ready for commercialization just yet. The team has currently applied and is trying to patent this technology, which could enable us to use our smartphones for weeks without recharging. If the technology is commercially available in the coming years, it could lead to a rampant increase in range of electric vehicles, power storage of solar panels, and other alternate sources of energy. Simply put, it would be immensely useful in the long run.