Flexible, stretchy supercapacitor targets wearables, IoT

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers in the UK and Brazil have developed a low cost technique for building flexible supercapacitors.

The technique can be used to provide lightweight power in wearable devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) alongside energy harvesting sources.

The fabrication of the flexible supercapacitor uses aligned carbon nanotube arrays (ACNTA)-built on a silicon wafer and transferring them to polyaniline/polydimethylsiloxane electrodes (ACNTA-PANI/PDMS) matrix. The carbon nanotubes were partially embedded in PDMS to ensure excellent adhesion and integration whilst PANI was electrodeposited on its surface to improve energy storage properties.

The supercapacitor structure and morphology were investigated by Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) by the teams at the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surry and the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), Brazil.

The energy storage properties of the electrodes were evaluated in two and three-electrode configurations. The maximum value of specific capacitance was 408 mF/cm2(265 F/g) at 1 mA/cm2, and a high energy density of 20 μWh/cm2 (25.5 Wh/kg) was achieved at a power density of 100 μW/cm2 (126.6 W/kg) for a symmetric two-electrode device.

The device showed a good capacitance retention of 76% after 5000 cycles and was able to maintain 80% of its electrochemical properties while being measured at different bending angles, demonstrating excellent mechanical agility performance under extreme conditions and some of the highest carbon-based energy storage properties.

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“Supercapacitors are key to ensuring that 5G and 6G technologies reach their full potential. While supercapacitors can certainly boost the lifespan of wearable consumer technologies, they have the potential to be revolutionary when you think about their role in autonomous vehicles and AI-assisted smart sensors that could help us all conserve energy. This is why it’s important that we create a low cost and environmentally friendly way to produce this incredibly promising energy storage technology,” said Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and Head of the Nano-Electronics Centre at the University of Surrey.

The work is the result of a long, ongoing international collaborations between the ATI, led by Prof Silva, and Brazilian higher education institutions. The initial research work was carried out in the ATI and consisted of the growth and characterization of materials, followed by electrochemical measurements carried out at the UFPel by Raphael Balboni and others from the NOVONANO group led by Professor Neftali Carreño.

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