Graphene Supercapacitors to aid Renewable Energy

By Kris Walker

The next generation of energy storage has been developed using graphene to create supercapacitors that could be used for renewable energy storage.

Graphene, a one atom thick layer of graphite has properties of high thermal and electrical conductivity, and is also strong and flexible.

These properties make graphene an interesting proposition for clean technology such as solar cell production however; researchers from Monash University, based in Australia, have developed a method of combining graphene, utilizing its properties, with supercapacitor technology.

Supercapacitors consist of highly porous carbon combined with a liquid electrolyte, which transports an electrical charge. The main advantages of supercapacitors consist of a near unlimited lifespan and quick re-charge capabilities.

Drawbacks consist of a low energy density, the ratio of energy storage to volume, of about five to eight watt-hours per liter meaning that they have to be constantly charged and are typically large.

Graphene supercapacitors could really benefit renewable energy due to its high energy density.

Enter Professor Dan Li and his team, at the department of materials engineering, who have created a graphene supercapacitor with an energy density of 60-watt hours per liter, 12 times higher than some standard supercapacitors.

"It has long been a challenge to make SCs smaller, lighter and compact to meet the increasingly demanding needs of many commercial uses." Professor Li said.

Using liquid electrolytes and a graphene gel film, the team were able to control the spacing between graphene sheets on the sub-nanometer scale enabling the liquid electrolytes to maintain minute space between graphene sheets as well as conduct electricity which maximizes energy density.

Professor Li further states, "We have created a macroscopic graphene material that is a step beyond what has been achieved previously. It is almost at the stage of moving from the lab to commercial development." 

Graphene gel is made up from the conversion of graphite into highly porous, mechanically robust conductive films.

To ensure a cost-effective production that could be scaled for industrial use, this material was created using a similar methodology to that of traditional papermaking.

The advantages of supercapacitors go hand in hand with renewable energy and utilizing with innovations such as electric vehicles, the drawbacks coming from the low energy density. Combining this with graphene, it can improve the density twelve times over meaning that this can be utilized in the commercial and industrial sector in the future.

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Further Reading: Monash University, Gel-Form Graphene.
Image Credit: Monash University,

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.


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  1. Richard Karpinski Richard Karpinski United States says:

    After a spectacular fire of a Tesla S after a crash, one wonders could such fires be worse with the faster access to power using supercapacitors instead of batteries?

  2. Adrian E. Garcia Adrian E. Garcia United States says:

    Hi Richard:

    Good question. Tesla uses Lithium-Ion batteries, which in combination with the electrolyte used, operates by Faradic reactions (essentially exchange of electrons). This means that during periods of high heat or other added energy (violent impacts such as what happened with the Model S), swelling and subsequently, explosive reactions can happen. Now I'm not sure that's exactly what happened, but I suspect it's close to the truth.

    The good news is, current research electric double layer capacitors (EDLCs, also known as supercapacitors or ultracapacitors) is looking into using different ionic liquids (which do not operate by Faradic reactions, thus no fear of explosions is warranted) as electrolytes.

    Also, carbon allotropes (such as graphene) seem to react wonderfully with these ionic liquids. Hope that helps!

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