Hydrogel Outperforms Carbon Supercapacitors

Supercapacitors complement batteries in energy storage and delivery schemes both large and small, as they can provide quick bursts of power. However, supercapacitors hold less energy per volume than a typical battery, so they have limited storage capacity.

Changing the electrode material can boost the capacitance, thus improving the energy density. Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao of Stanford University have made a hydrogel using a conducting polymer. When used as electrodes in a supercapacitor, the new material has a capacitance about three times greater than a typical carbon supercapacitor.

It is also cheap to build and operate.  As the polymer can be synthesized using inkjet printing or spray coating each solution on a surface, it is easy to produce on a large scale for possible energy storage applications. The electrolyte is another factor that makes this conducting polymer supercapacitor attractive for low cost, yet high performance, energy devices. This hydrogel uses a cheaper water-based electrolyte compared to the organic ionic liquids used in carbon supercapacitors.

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