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  • Writer's pictureMaher El-Kady

Innovation Toronto: Make Your Own Supercapacitor with an Ordinary DVD

Enable a new generation of high-performance portable electronics and solar cells

You are this close to the breakthrough energy storage technology of the next millennium if you a) have a computer, b) buy a blank DVD, c) own or have access to a DVD label-burning device and d) pre-treat your DVD with a thin film of graphite oxide. Well, there might be an extra step or two involved, but that’s the basic idea behind a new method for making high-efficiency energy storage devices called supercapacitors. Researchers at UCLA headed by graduate student Maher F. El-Kadyh have demonstrated that an ordinary DVD pre-treated with graphite oxide can be inscribed by laser into components for a graphene-based supercapacitor using a commercially available  CD/DVD label burning drive, in this case from the company LightScribe.

What’s so great about a supercapacitor?

Supercapacitors store energy like batteries, but they charge up and discharge far more quickly, giving them the potential to pack more power into a smaller, lighter space.

However, until now the conventional technology has been based on activated carbon electrodes, which are characterized by tiny pores that result in a relatively low ability to store energy. Activated carbon also fares poorly when it comes to discharging at a high level of power.

Graphene makes a better supercapacitor

By using graphene instead of activated carbon, the electrodes in El-Kadyh’s supercapacitor achieve a high degree of conductivity while providing a greater surface area, enabling it to store more energy. The research is being supervised by Richard B. Kaner, a professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering at UCLA, who has stated that the graphene supercapacitor can “store as much charge as conventional batteries, but can be charged and discharged a hundred to a thousand times faster.”

With this degree of storage and discharge efficiency, combined with light weight and extreme flexibility, the new supercapacitor could enable a new generation of high-performance portable electronics and solar cells.

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