Tuesday, February 26, 2013

VIDEO: Supercapacitors Show The Evolution Of Batteries

We've lived with batteries for so long that we haven't really seen them evolve. In the decades we've had them in our lives, the only way we've known them to improve is for the technology that they run on to improve. But now it seems that our traditional view of batteries is about to change,  and it's a mother of a change..

video via Vimeo

Click here for some background information...

Introducing the superconductor. It's made out of graphene, which is like graphite in that it's composed of a similar carbon polymer, but it's only one atom thick. Think of it this way: take that part of a pencil that you write with (you know the part that rubs off on you when you touch it), and flatten that out to a ridiculously thin, small sheet. That's what graphene is, and what makes it awesome is that it's better than a standard battery. How? Simple: charge it for a short time, and it lasts many times longer.

Here's the skinny on the science, via the BBC:
Graphene, a very simple carbon polymer, can be used as the basic component of a "supercapacitor" -- an electrical power storage device that charges far more rapidly than chemical batteries. Unlike other supercapacitors, though, graphene's structure also offers a high "energy density," -- it can hold a lot of electrons, meaning that it could conceivably rival or outperform batteries in the amount of charge it can hold. Kaner Lab researcher Maher El-Kady found a way to create sheets of graphene a single carbon atom thick by covering a plastic surface with graphite oxide solution and bombarding it with precisely controlled laser light.
Basically, El-Kady put a liquid version of graphene onto a DVD, put it to a highly concentrated light (like one in a standard-issue DVD burner), and then boom...supercapacitor, a thin sheet of carbon that holds a charge longer, and can put out loads more energy. What does that mean for you? Think of it this way: plug your phone in for not even 10 seconds, and you're good to go for the whole day.

Everything said so far happened a year ago. So what's happened in a year?
Late Tuesday, UCLA announced that El-Kady and Kaner have a new article in press ... describing a method by which El-Kady's earlier, slightly homebrewed fabricating process shown in the video can be made more efficient, raising the possibility of mass production.
TRANSLATION: It might actually come to you in the future!

The new micro-supercapacitors are also highly bendable and twistable, making them potentially useful as energy-storage devices in flexible electronics like roll-up displays and TVs, e-paper, and even wearable electronics. The researchers showed the utility of their new laser-scribed graphene micro-supercapacitor in an all-solid form, which would enable any new device incorporating them to be more easily shaped and flexible. The micro-supercapacitors can also be fabricated directly on a chip using the same technique, making them highly useful for integration into micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors (CMOS).
TRANSLATION: They can fit and form to pretty much anything! Even flatter (and smaller) tablets, clothes, paper ... anything!

Okay, so it's pretty easy to get excited about this new technology. But let's just have a reality check: this is still rather new, and clearly more tests are needed before they can just roll it out to us. For instance, we need to know how these things could pan out if they're in clothes that are washed, or maybe there's some chemical reaction that might be trouble down the line. Yeah, it's carbon-based and is seemingly harmless, but it's a relatively new compound and we don't know everything about it. Better safe than sorry, right?

story via the BBC

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