New electronic devices are made possible by improvements in circuit boards and separate components. Scientists are putting a lot of efforts in developing more capable electronic components, but some of the most significant discoveries are made without thorough planning. Now a team of scientists from the University of Amsterdam invented a new material, which may become a basis for new kind of supercapacitors.
Although it cannot be said that this discovery was made by accident, scientists were not working in this exact field. They were researching fuel cells – scientists were trying to develop solid catalytic electrodes for these devices. They modified the surface of these materials, which resulted in a highly porous yet well-structured compound. These results inspired further testing of the supercapacitance of the material. Initial testing was successful and the University has already filed a patent application on this invention. It is said that this new supercapacitor material has a potential to be applied in electronics, transportation and energy storage devices.
The new supercapacitor material has several good points about it – it is light, cheap, and non-toxic, and it can be prepared easily on a large scale. Dr David Eisenberg, one of the inventors of this new material, said: “Companies making electronic devices look for low-cost, highly reproducible materials with a low environmental impact. The literature abounds with reports of high-performance electronic materials, but these will only be applied if they can be made cheaply in large quantities”.
One may wonder, what exactly a supercapacitor is and why is it such a big deal. Scientists explain it is a device, which combines properties of capacitors and batteries. These two devices are similar in a sense that both of them store power. But batteries can store large amounts of energy and charge and discharge slowly, while capacitors store only a limited amount of energy and release it quickly.
Furthermore, while batteries use their entire body for energy storage, capacitors only use their surface. Supercapacitors combine these properties and can store larger amounts of energy than usual capacitors, while still taking and delivering energy quickly. It is extremely useful in many applications, such as protecting electronic circuits against power surges, regenerative breaking in cars and elevators, and burst-mode power delivery in camera flashes.
New electronic elements and devices are able to improve our technology. One might think that a new phone or a tablet is a big deal in the industry. However, inventions like this are able to improve entire range of devices we use every day.