Highly Efficient Supercapacitors Better Than Batteries

A team working with Roland Fischer, Professor of Chemistry at the Technical University Munich (TUM) in Germany has developed a highly efficient supercapacitor. The basis of the energy storage device is a novel, powerful and also sustainable graphene hybrid material that has comparable performance data to currently utilized batteries.

Usually, energy storage is associated with batteries and accumulators that provide energy for electronic devices. However, in laptops, cameras, cellphones or vehicles, so-called supercapacitors are increasingly installed these days.

Unlike batteries they can quickly store large amounts of energy and put it out just as fast. If, for instance, a train brakes when entering the station, supercapacitors are storing the energy and provide it again when the train needs a lot of energy very quickly while starting up. However, one problem with supercapacitors to date was their lack of energy density. While lithium accumulators reach an energy density of up to 265 Kilowatt hours (KW/h), supercapacitors thus far have only been delivering a tenth thereof.

The team working with TUM chemist Roland Fischer has now developed a novel, powerful as well as sustainable graphene hybrid material for supercapacitors. It serves as the positive electrode in the energy storage device. The researchers are combining it with a proven negative electrode based on titanium and carbon. The new energy storage device does not only attain an energy density of up to 73 Wh/kg, which is roughly equivalent to the energy density of an nickel metal hydride battery, but also performs much better than most other supercapacitors at a power density of 16 kW/kg. The secret of the new supercapacitor is the combination of different materials – hence, chemists refer to the supercapacitor as “asymmetrical.”

The researchers are betting on a new strategy to overcome the performance limits of standard materials – they utilize hybrid materials. “Nature is full of highly complex, evolutionarily optimized hybrid materials – bones and teeth are examples. Their mechanical properties, such as hardness and elasticity were optimized through the combination of various materials by nature,” says Roland Fischer.

The abstract idea of combining basic materials was transferred to supercapacitors by the research team. As a basis, they used the novel positive electrode of the storage unit with chemically modified graphene and combined it with a nano-structured metal organic framework, a so-called MOF.

Long-lasting Lithium Batteries

The grand challenge to improve energy storage and increase battery life, while ensuring safe operation, is becoming evermore critical as we become increasingly reliant on this energy source for everything from portable devices to electric vehicles. A Columbia Engineering team led by Yuan Yang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, announced today that they have developed a new method for safely prolonging battery life by inserting a nano-coating of boron nitride (BN) to stabilize solid electrolytes in lithium metal batteries.

While conventional lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries are currently widely used in daily life, they have low energy density, resulting in shorter battery life, and, because of the highly flammable liquid electrolyte inside them, they can short out and even catch fire. Energy density could be improved by using lithium metal to replace the graphite anode used in Li-ion batteries: lithium metal’s theoretical capacity for the amount of charge it can deliver is almost 10 times higher than that of graphite. But during lithium plating, dendrites often form and, if they penetrate the membrane separator in the middle of the battery, they can create short-circuits, raising concerns about battery safety.

We decided to focus on solid, ceramic electrolytes. They show great promise in improving both safety and energy density, as compared with conventional, flammable electrolytes in Li-ion batteries,” says Yang. “We are particularly interested in rechargeable solid-state lithium batteries because they are promising candidates for next-generation energy storage.” “Lithium metal is indispensable for enhancing energy density and so it’s critical that we be able to use it as the anode for solid electrolytes,” says Qian Cheng, the paper’s lead author and a postdoctoral research scientist in the department of applied physics and applied mathematics who works in Yang’s group. “To adapt these unstable solid electrolytes for real-life applications, we needed to develop a chemically and mechanically stable interface to protect these solid electrolytes against the lithium anode. It is essential that the interface not only be highly electronically insulating, but also ionically conducting in order to transport lithium ions. Plus, this interface has to be super-thin to avoid lowering the energy density of batteries.”

Th findings are outlined in a new study published by Joule.

Source: https://engineering.columbia.edu/