If UCLA researchers are correct, a new supercharger could transform both the way we power our electronics and recycle their old sources of energy. Bringing together the quick-charging qualities of a capacitor and the energy-holding capacities of a battery, graphene supercapacitors could replace the often toxic batteries we currently use to power our electronics.
Batteries and capacitors are relatively similar devices, functionally speaking. Standard batteries consist of two chemicals that react with each other, separated by a barrier, and have a circuit between them; capacitors are composed of two oppositely charged metal plates, separated by an insulator, with a circuit between them. When electrons flow through the circuits of batteries and capacitors alike they provide electricity. Although capacitors can be charged very quickly, they don’t hold nearly as much energy as batteries.
Graphene supercapacitors would solve the energy holding problem of capacitors. Graphene conducts electricity better than any other common substance, and the one-atom thick material has more going for it than capacity: it’s also thinner, lighter, and can be turned into cheaper energy-holding devices than batteries. Because it’s carbon-based, it’s also biodegradable. Considering the care we need to take when disposing of batteries that are often made of toxic metals, how much would it rock to be able to compost our disposable charge holders instead?
Extremely flexible and stronger than steel, graphene has been notoriously difficult to work with, as the Focus Forward video describes. The researchers who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their work with graphene created the substance by carefully peeling graphite with scotch tape--not a method that’s easy or quick to replicate. However, researchers at UCLA claim they have found a better method to craft the substance in a delightfully MacGyver-like way: by using a consumer-grade DVD drive. After pouring graphite oxide onto CDs, popping the CDs into the drive and using the drive’s laser to beam light on the material, the graphite oxide deoxygenates and becomes graphene. Miles ahead of scotch tape, this DVD drive method produces the essentially two-dimensional material easily and quickly. Imagine what could be done with a machine designed to create sheets of graphene on a larger scale.
Graphene supercapacitors have immense potential to revolutionize the efficiency and environmental-friendliness of our electronics. Especially after listening to the researchers discuss graphene’s potential, it’s difficult not to be excited for the future of this technology. Graphene supercapacitors could charge electronic devices, but further research will determine just how much these supercapacitors can charge (are electric car charging stations really a possibility?), and if and when they'll be available for consumers. In any case, here’s hoping the technology can take off.
via: Boing Boing
written by 2ndGreenRevolution Blog, February 22, 2013
written by Gary Hemmings, February 22, 2013
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