UCF researchers have developed a technique to increase the energy storage capabilities of supercapacitors—essential devices for powering high-speed trains, electric cars and the emergency doors of the Airbus A380.
This finding, which offers a solution to a problem that has plagued the growing multibillion-dollar industry, utilizes a unique three-step process to “print” large-area nanostructured electrodes. Such structures are necessary to improve electrical conductivity and boost performance of the supercapacitor.
Jayan Thomas, an assistant professor at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, led the project, one that featured in the June edition of Advanced Materials, one of the leading peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world. Thomas’ research appears on the journal’s highly coveted frontispiece, the illustration page that precedes the title page.
Supercapacitors have been around since the 1960s and are similar to batteries as they store energy. The difference is that supercapacitors can provide higher amounts of power for shorter periods of time, making them very useful for heavy machinery and other applications that require large amounts of energy to start. However, due to their innate low energy density, supercapacitors are limited in the amount of energy that they can store.
“We had been looking at techniques to print nanostructures,” says Thomas. “Using a simple spin-on nanoprinting [SNAP] technique, we can print highly ordered nanopillars without the need for complicated development processes. By eliminating these processes, it allows multiple imprints to be made on the same substrate in close proximity.”
This simplified fabrication method devised by Thomas and his team is attractive for the next-generation of energy storage systems. “What we’ve found is by adding the printed ordered nanostructures to supercapacitor electrodes, we can increase their surface area many times,” adds Thomas. “We discovered that supercapacitors made using the SNAP technique can store much more energy than ones made without.”