Printing technology comes to supercapacitors
Aug 13, 2012
Wound (rolled) rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors (Electrochemical Double Layer Capacitors) are similar in construction, with two foil electrodes, the electrodes being kept apart by a porous membrane called a separator soaked in an electrolyte. There are even hybrids of the two. Like batteries, the active electrode material on those current collector foils is usually crudely applied with a scraper using a chemical mud.
However, Cellergy is an example of a supercapacitor manufacturer that is now using "an advanced form of screen printing" for its active electrodes and we can expect this level of sophistication to reach the favourite rechargeable batteries - Lithium Ion - in due course.
Supercapacitors are starting to appear in energy harvesting, mobile phones, trucks, buses, trams, trains, cars, bikes, wind turbines and much more besides. Their charge-discharge rate, life and "fit and forget" is something battery manufacturers can only dream about. While expensive per Wh, they are improving faster than batteries and there are already five manufacturers offering versions with the energy density of lead-acid batteries. They start a truck when the battery is too cold: they let you take a flash photo with your phone at ten times the distance and they improve the sound of professional audio systems. Indeed, several professors calculate that they could eventually have higher energy density than the best rechargeable batteries of tomorrow - maybe even 1000 Wh plus if using grapheme and more modern deposition technology.
The most conservative market forecasts come in at a blistering 30% compound value growth for supercapacitors over the coming decade. In the last three years, the number of supercapacitor manufacturers has doubled to around seventy. In short, supercapacitors, otherwise known as ultracapacitors or Electrochemical Double Layer Capacitors EDLS are one of the top drivers of the new electronics and electrics.
This is a game of improving electrode area so graphene and, to a lesser extent, carbon nanotubes come centre stage. Improvement to manufacture includes progressing from scraping of active electrode pastes based on coconut shells to advanced screen printing and carbide-derived-carbon, carbon aerogel and nanocarbon being used with improved electrolytes, both aqueous and organic. The half-way-house of supercabatteries (Asymmetric Electrochemical Double Layer Capacitors AEDLC) has properties between batteries and supercapacitors and is mainly aimed at replacing batteries where price is less important than performance. The lead UltraBatteryTM and the lithium-ion "lithium capacitor" versions clearly have huge potential.
Come to this conference to understand the latest position and the future a device that is now of vital interest to all in electronics, electrical engineering, fine chemicals, printed electronics, materials science and vehicles.
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