Supercapacitor is smaller than a speck of dust

August 30, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Supercapacitor is smaller than a speck of dust
The world’s smallest power source developed at the Chemnitz University of Technology is 1 nanolitre and can drive an implanted medical sensor

Researchers in Germany have developed the world’s smallest power source for medical and sensor designs.

A prototype supercapacitor measuring 0.001mm3 (1 nanolitre) has been developed by an international research team led by Prof. Dr. Oliver Schmidt, Professorship of Materials Systems for Nanoelectronics at Chemnitz University of Technology,head of the Centre for Materials, Architectures and Integration of Nanomembranes (MAIN) at Chemnitz University of Technology and director at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research (IFW) Dresden. The Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (IPF) was also involved in the study.

The microsupercapacitor is being used in artificial blood vessels and can be used as an energy source for a tiny sensor system to measure pH. For example, real-time detection of blood pH can help predict early tumour growing.

Currently, the smallest such energy storage devices are larger than 3 mm3. The protype nano-biosupercapacitor (nBSC) is smaller than a grain of dust but delivers up to 1.6 V supply voltage for microelectronic sensors.

This energy can be used for a sensor system in the blood, for example. The power level also is roughly equivalent to the voltage of a standard AAA battery, although the actual current flow on these smallest scales is significantly lower. The flexible tubular geometry of the nano-biosupercapacitor provides efficient self-protection against deformations caused by pulsating blood or muscle contraction. At full capacity, the nBSC can operate a complex fully integrated sensor system for measuring the pH value in blood.

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"It is extremely encouraging to see how new, extremely flexible, and adaptive microelectronics is making it into the miniaturized world of biological systems," said Prof Schmidt.

The fabrication of the samples and the investigation of the biosupercapacitor were largely carried out at the MAIN Research Centre at Chemnitz.

"The architecture of our nano-bio supercapacitors offers the first potential solution to one of the biggest challenges – tiny integrated energy storage devices that enable the self-sufficient operation of multifunctional microsystems," said Dr. Vineeth Kumar, researcher in Prof. Schmidt's team and a research associate at the MAIN research centre.

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