HOUSTON (Sept. 3, 2013) Clay, an abundant and cheap natural material, is a key ingredient in a supercapacitor that can operate at very high temperatures, according to Rice University researchers who have developed such a device.
The Rice group of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan reported today in Nature's online journal, Scientific Reports that the supercapacitor is reliable at temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit) and possibly beyond. It could be useful for powering devices for use in extreme environments, such as oil drilling, the military and space.
"Our intention is to completely move away from conventional liquid or gel-type electrolytes, which have been limited to low-temperature operation of electrochemical devices," said Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, lead author and a former research scientist at Rice.
"We found that a clay-based membrane electrolyte is a game-changing breakthrough that overcomes one of the key limitations of high-temperature operation of electrochemical energy devices," Reddy said. "By allowing safe operation over a wide range of temperatures without compromising on high energy, power and cycle life, we believe we can dramatically enhance or even eliminate the need for expensive thermal management systems."
A supercapacitor combines the best qualities of capacitors that charge in seconds and discharge energy in a burst and rechargeable batteries that charge slowly but release energy on demand over time. The ideal supercapacitor would charge quickly, store energy and release it as needed.
"Researchers have been trying for years to make energy storage devices like batteries and supercapacitors that work reliably in high-temperature environments, but this has been challenging, given the traditional materials used to build these devices," Ajayan said.
In particular, researchers have struggled to find an electrolyte, which conducts ions between a ba
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