Y-Carbon, a company founded by scientists at Drexel University and Georgia Tech, is looking to bring new green jobs to old factory regions with a low-cost process for manufacturing nanoporous carbon. The process can be adjusted, or tuned, to produce a material with precisely sized pores. Nanoporous carbon has an enlarged surface area which makes it ideal for water filtration, desalination, and certain medical treatments. The real excitement, though, is in the use of nanoporous carbon to improve the storage capacity of supercapacitors. It could lead to a breakthrough in storage technology for a wide variety of sustainable energy applications including solar and wind generators.
Supercapacitors and Carbon
Supercapacitors charge much more quickly than batteries, but their storage capability is limited. Even with that disadvantage, supercapacitors are beginning to prove their place in sustainable technology, particularly when it comes to energy harvesting. For example, supercapacitors partnered with revolving doors can collect energy from passers-by and convert it to electricity. Carbon has been the material of choice for supercapacitors, generally in the form of activated charcoal. The development of graphene and aerogels promises improved storage, and carbon nanotubes could take it a step further.
Y-Carbon and Low-Cost Batteries
Electric vehicles, portable electronic devices, and the shift toward solar and wind energy have combined to push energy storage technology in new directions. Bio-batteries, nanowire, and silicon have all been added to the mix. Until now, one big hitch has been cost. That’s the problem that Y-Carbon set out to tackle. After ten years of research, this summer Y-Carbon won a prestigious R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine for developing a simple, low-cost process for making tunable nanoporous carbon. The process can tailor the structure, porosity, and surface chemistry of the material to precise specifications that fit its intended use, potentially achieving greater performance compared to one-size-fits-all carbon synthesis.
Y-Carbon and Green Jobs
According to an article by Philadelphia Business Journal staff writer Peter Key, Y-Carbon founder and chief science officer Yury Gogotsi eventually plans to locate the company’s production facilities in the U.S. He sees Y-Carbon as part of a green jobs revival for depressed manufacturing regions in the Northeast, like Drexel University’s home town Philadelphia. And there’s an extra green twist. Y-Carbon’s process can be completely enclosed and emission free, creating new manufacturing jobs without the smog.
Image: Garison C. Garison on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.