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Scalable Solid-State Energy Storage Using Nanotubes


A solid-state supercapacitor based on nanotubes created by researchers at Rice University could be useful for both large and small scale energy storage.

The scalable supercapacitor technology is designed to combine the best qualities of high-energy batteries and fast-charging capacitors in a device suitable for extreme environments. Applications for the technology include energy storage for solar power plants as well as direct integration of energy storage into devices such as flexible displays or nanocircuitry. 
Electric double-layer capacitors (EDLCs), generally known as supercapacitors, hold hundreds of times more energy than a standard capacitor – acting like a battery – and can charge or discharge very quickly. However, traditional EDLCs use liquid or gel-like electrolytes that can break down in very hot or cold conditions. The Rice researchers, led by Robert Hague, developed a solid-state supercapacitor that doesn’t use electrolytes, but is instead based on vertically aligned single-walled carbon nanotube arrays.

To create the supercapacitor, the researchers grew an array of 15- to 20- nm bundles of single-walled carbon nanotubes up to 50 microns long. The vertically aligned carbon nanoparticles offer electrons a large amount of surface area to inhabit in a small space, which is key for increasing energy storage without increasing the device’s footprint. Each bundle of nanotubes is 500 times longer than it is wide, so a tiny chip could contain hundreds of thousands of bundles.


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