The London REE Report: Graphene and Supercapacitors

The researchers also showed how three twisted supercapacitors connected in series could be used to light a red LED. After 15 minutes of charging at 2.5 V, the rolled-up supercapacitors lit the LED for almost 30 minutes.

Step forward today’s Edison’s and Teslas. These days they go by the names of Andre Geim, Konstantin Novoselov, and Chuizhou Meng, among others, the first two having just won the Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery of graphene, the world’s thinnest material. Chuizhou Meng and the team at the Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center at Tsinghua University in Beijing have just made “a new ultra-thin supercapacitor that has a capacitance that is six times higher than that of any current commercial supercapacitor”.

The flattest material in the world
October 6, 2010 By Phillip F. Schewe

The Nobel Prize for physics goes to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both Russian-born physicists now working at the University of Manchester in the U.K., for their discoery of graphene

Graphene is a sheet-like substance made of carbon atoms bonded together in a repeating hexagonal pattern. It is the first essentially two-dimensional material ever made.

Being the thinnest piece of matter in the world is just one of many superlatives that can be applied to graphene. It is also the strongest material known, about 100 times stronger than steel. Since a sheet of graphene is only one atom thick, it is also transparent, and therefore may play a role in the development of future electronic displays.

Some of the most interesting features of the material, from the point of view of future applications, have to do with its electrical properties. Electricity flows quickly through graphene and without losing much energy along the way. This, coupled with the fact that it is relatively easy to fabricate, makes graphene a candidate for replacing or enhancing the integrated circuits that fill our computers today.

—- Graphene chips may be cheaper, faster, and easier to fabricate than silicon chips.

—– Meanwhile, Geim and other researchers expect to find plenty of other applications for graphene. Besides use in building materials or electronics, graphene might emerge as a basis for chemical sensors and for generators of terahertz-range light. This type of radiation, with frequencies of about one trillion cycles per second, is somewhat difficult to produce. It might be important as a new imaging tool since human bodies are transparent at this frequency, making this sort of light wave useful for security or medical scanning machines.M

Paper-thin supercapacitor has higher capacitance when twisted than any non-twisted supercapacitor
September 21, 2010

In an effort to develop wearable electronics, researchers have designed a new ultra-thin supercapacitor that has a capacitance that is six times higher than that of any current commercial supercapacitor. What’s more, the new supercapacitor was tested in a twisted state to demonstrate its good electrochemical properties with high flexibility.

The researchers, Chuizhou Meng, et al., from the Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center at Tsinghua University in Beijing have published their results in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

As the researchers explain, portable electronic devices are becoming increasingly small and flexible. However, the energy management components – e.g. batteries and supercapacitors – tend to lag behind the other components when it comes to small size and flexibility.

—– In an attempt to design an energy-storage device that is smaller and more flexible than previous devices, the researchers turned to carbon-based materials. By using two slightly separated electrodes made of polyaniline (a conductive polymer) and carbon nanotubes, and solidifying them in a gel polymer solid-state electrolyte (acting simultaneously as a separator), the researchers could fabricate a highly flexible supercapacitor that was as thin as a standard piece of paper

—- We omitted the heavy metal current collectors and bulky encapsulation of conventional supercapacitors. Here, carbon nanotubes formed a good electric conducting network, polyaniline provided extremely large pseudocapacitance, and the ultra-thin middle gel polymer electrolyte layer acted simultaneously as a separator. Overall, the devices are very flexible and paper-like.”

So what has all this got to do with our rare metal blog? Well I think each will bring about a big advance in electric vehicles, among other things. I know, you’re probably thinking by now that Graeme’s lost it, and that this is a terribly complicated and expensive way to light up a red LED for 30 minutes.  But I also think  that the two discoveries overlap in some respects and that we are witnessing our version of the early 1880s moment when Ferranti (in England) and Tesla (in America)  developed AC power and worked out why it beats out DC power.  All we need now is our version of Westinghouse and Siemens to exploit graphene and supercapacitors  in ways that will alter our everyday life.  There’s a fortune going begging for the first man that makes e-mobility (especially electric cars, trucks and trains) a practical working reality. I think that that reality just got a whole lot closer. But will we have enough non Chinese rare metals resources in production when e-mobility truly arrives?  In mobility, at least, I think tomorrow will not be like today, which was like yesterday. I wonder how many twisted supercapacitors it takes to light up a blue LED. 

Deptford East

The first [power] station was designed in 1887 by Sebastian de Ferranti for the London Electric Supply Corporation. It was located at the Stowage, a site to the west of the mouth of Deptford Creek once used by the East India Company. Built on an unprecedented scale and pioneering the use of high voltage (10,000V) AC current, generating 800 kilowatts. The station was intended as a large scale plant to supply central London. The need to lay distribution cables across the streets of numerous local authorities stirred up a Board of Trade Inquiry, and concerns about the wisdom of concentrating so much generating capacity at a single site. The company also lost customers due to early teething troubles and the station was eventually opened in 1891 on a smaller scale than envisaged. However it was still the world’s largest power station at the time. The original building, known as Deptford East, remained in use until 1957

More on Sunday.