Graphene supercapacitors boost battery charge

Consumer devices may be getting smaller and smaller but the holy grail of ultra high density and speed batteries remains elusive.   Just take a look at the bulky and apparently slow charging battery of the new iPad 3.

However, researchers at UCLA reckon that a simple method of supercapacitor production could bring about incredibly powerful batteries in the future.

Supercapacitors are able to store much more energy than the ones found amongst the innards of computer circuitry.  

The benefits of supercapacitors are clear, with high charge and discharge rates meaning you wouldn’t have to spend days watching the battery icon on a device slowly fill, and charge cycles that don’t leave your battery gasping after a few months.

Unfortunately it has proved very difficult to create versions that have densities that would rival conventional batteries.

To do so requires electrodes in the battery with specific properties, such as extremely high conductivity.  This also means the necessity to provide more surface area than previous attempts at supercapacitors, which used carbon electrodes.

Rather ingeniously researchers at UCLA have managed to do this by producing electrodes using that most wonderful of materials, graphene, and a DVD optical drive.

Graphene has the inherent properties that suit the needs of highly conductive electrodes, and the atom thick material also benefits from a massive surface area.

What the researchers have managed to do is produce the graphene electrode simply using DVD disk-coating techniques.  A film of graphite oxide is put onto a disk inside a LightScribe DVD drive, and is laser-scribed to produce the electrodes.

Although this may sound like a rather DIY method, it is still arguably more advanced than the Blue Peter-esque graphene sticky-tape production methods made famous by two Manchester Uni professors.

According to tests undertaken by the researchers, the resultant electrodes work well and maintain ”excellent electrochemical attributes under high mechanical stress”.

This means that they are able to hold easily as much charge as conventional batteries, while charging up ”a hundred to a thousand times faster”.

Furthermore, unlike other forms of supercapcitor the laser-scribed graphene version also allows for flexible electronics.  The researchers apparently put the graphene electrodes under constant strees, but they worked fine, giving ”promise for high power, flexible electronics” in future.