Researchers develop new type of high-energy-density capacitor that could revolutionize energy storage: 'Contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable future'

Experts from three universities see a lot of potential for a device that's just a square inch in size.

It's a flexible, 2D (no thickness) capacitor made with nanomaterials by a team with members from the University of Houston, Jackson State, and Howard University. While small to begin with, the experts think the invention could "revolutionize" energy storage for the medical, aviation, electric vehicle, consumer electronics, and defense industries, all per a Houston lab report.

Capacitors already reliably power electronic devices, specifically in scenarios where high power is needed quickly. The group of experts boosted the storage ability with their latest breakthrough, making a formidable device.

"High-energy and high-power capacitors are essential for a reliable power supply, especially as we shift to using more renewable energy sources. However, current dielectric capacitors don't store as much energy as other types of energy storage devices such as batteries," Houston Professor Alamgir Karim, a faculty mentor on the team, said in the summary.

Capacitors store energy like a battery, though the inner workings and chemistry are a little different.

As part of the research, the experts used "mechanically exfoliated" flakes of ultra-thin 2D nanofillers and layered polymers. But don't confuse this with a day at the spa. The breakthrough is in part how the materials were stacked to form a sandwich thinner than a human hair, all per the Houston report.

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"Our work demonstrates the development of high-energy and high-power-density capacitors by blocking electrical breakdown pathways in polymeric materials using the oriented 2D nanofillers," Maninderjeet Singh, one of the study's first authors, said in the summary.

The result is better performance compared to capacitors with nanofillers that are randomly blended into the stack. The technique is reported to be a unique approach that the team deems to have high potential.

It's science that's in contrast to other research showing that disorder in capacitor carbon electrodes provides better performance.

The result of these efforts will hopefully deliver the best way to arrange the furniture inside the energy storage devices for optimum performance. Karim and his team seem confident in their approach.

"With the help of mechanical exfoliation and transfer techniques, we successfully achieved the desired orientation," Karim added.

Supercapacitor tech being developed around the planet is starting to make headlines. Some breakthroughs aim to turn cement into powerhouses. Others are on the small side, making storage devices meant to be woven into fabric, potentially creating clothing that can power wearable tech.

The Houston, Jackson, and Howard experts see their invention one day powering pacemakers and defibrillators, as well as EVs and other devices. Improved storage for the former applications has obvious health benefits, as no one wants a pacemaker with a failing power supply.

If capacitors can branch into the mobility market, they could help to make EVs more appealing to folks who are still hesitant to buy one because of so-called range anxiety. While becoming less of a concern — many EVs can travel over 270 miles on a charge, with 300-400 becoming more common — it's still a frequent sticking point.

Capacitors can make a significant impact by helping to put the issue to rest. That's because each EV prevents 10,000 pounds of air pollution from being created each year when replacing a gas-powered car. What's more, drivers can save $1,500 a year on fuel and maintenance costs.

"We believe that our findings will inspire further studies to develop even higher energy-density capacitors, contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable future," Singh said in the lab report.

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