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Published on May 26th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Faster Acceleration In EVs With New Supercapacitor Improvement? New Research From UC Riverside Tantalizes

May 26th, 2014 by  

Could electric vehicles (EVs) soon get a big boost to their acceleration thanks to new, improved supercapacitors?

The researchers behind an interesting new development in the field think so — thanks to the development of a novel nanometer scale ruthenium oxide anchored nanocarbon graphene foam architecture that improves the performance of said supercapacitors.

(a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM. Image Credit: University of California - Riverside

(a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM. Image Credit: University of California–Riverside

The new development could also be used to create batteries with greater capacity than is currently possible, according to the researchers. Something important to note — the “foam electrode was successfully cycled over 8,000 times with no fading in performance.”

Of course, whether or not EVs will get a boost to their acceleration (or better batteries will be created) is the real question, not if they could. And that’s typically a matter of economics, something not often addressed in university press releases.

On that front, though, the research (and related work) is currently in the process of being commercialized by a team at UC Riverside, which is a good sign that is not often present in such releases.

The press release provides more:

The researchers found that supercapacitors, an energy storage device like batteries and fuel cells, based on transition metal oxide modified nanocarbon graphene foam electrode could work safely in aqueous electrolyte and deliver two times more energy and power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today.

These characteristics are desirable for many applications including electric vehicles and portable electronics. However, supercapacitors may only serve as standalone power sources in systems that require power delivery for less than 10 seconds because of their relatively low specific energy.

High capacitance, or the ability to store an electrical charge, is critical to achieve higher energy density. Meanwhile, to achieve a higher power density it is critical to have a large electrochemically accessible surface area, high electrical conductivity, short ion diffusion pathways and excellent interfacial integrity. Nanostructured active materials provide a mean to these ends.

“Besides high energy and power density, the designed graphene foam electrode system also demonstrates a facile and scalable binder-free technique for preparing high energy supercapacitor electrodes,” stated researcher Wei Wang. “These promising properties mean that this design could be ideal for future energy storage applications.”

The new research was detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

On a related front, a new graphene and carbon-nanotube supercapacitor that rivals lithium-ion batteries in storage capacity was recently created by an international research team. The new supercapacitor also possesses an impressive lifespan, much greater than that of lithium batteries — 93% after 10,000 charge/discharge cycles. So — essentially — this is an energy storage device that can charge/discharge as fast as a supercapacitor but has the storage capacity of a lithium-ion battery? Sounds good… I assume there’s a catch somewhere, though, right? one issue is that graphene, though supposedly now in commercial production in Poland, is a new and hard-to-produce material that is likely very costly. 
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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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