A team of researchers from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), Brazil, has developed a new type of supercapacitor that can be integrated into footwear or clothing, an advance with applications in wearables and IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
A supercapacitor is an electricity storage device, similar to a battery, but it stores and releases electricity much faster.
The researchers have devised a novel method for the development of flexible supercapacitors based on carbon nanomaterials. The new method, which is cheaper and less time-consuming to fabricate, involves transferring aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays from a silicon wafer to a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) matrix. This is then coated in a material called polyaniline (PANI), which stores energy through a mechanism known as pseudocapacitance, offering outstanding energy storage properties with exceptional mechanical integrity.
According to the team, its enhanced, wafer-thin supercapacitor retains most of its capacitance (the amount of electrical charge that can be stored) after numerous cycles at different bending conditions, demonstrating its robustness, longevity, and efficiency.
In lab tests, the device showed good capacitance retention of 76% after 5000 cycles and was able to maintain 80% of its electrochemical properties while being measured at different bending angles, demonstrating excellent mechanical agility performance under extreme conditions and some of the highest carbon-based energy storage properties.
“Supercapacitors are key to ensuring that 5G and 6G technologies reach their full potential,” said Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and Head of the Nano-Electronics Centre at the University of Surrey. “While supercapacitors can certainly boost the lifespan of wearable consumer technologies, they have the potential to be revolutionary when you think about their role in autonomous vehicles and AI-assisted smart sensors that could help us all conserve energy. This is why it’s important that we create a low-cost and environmentally friendly way to produce this incredibly promising energy storage technology. The future is certainly bright for supercapacitors.”