Smartwatches, fitness trackers and other ‘Internet of Things’ devices could get a significant boost to their ‘battery’ life thanks to new, environmentally friendly energy research by a team from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) in the UK and the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel) in Brazil.

In a paper in Nanoscale, the research team report how a supercapacitor can be efficiently manufactured into a high-performance and low-cost power storage device that can be easily integrated into footwear, clothing and accessories.

“Supercapacitors are key to ensuring that 5G and 6G technologies reach their full potential,” said Ravi Silva, director of the ATI and head of the Nano-Electronics Centre at the University of Surrey. “While supercapacitors can certainly boost the lifespan of wearable consumer technologies, they have the potential to be revolutionary when you think about their role in autonomous vehicles and AI-assisted smart sensors that could help us all conserve energy. This is why it’s important that we create a low cost and environmentally friendly way to produce this incredibly promising energy storage technology. The future is certainly bright for supercapacitors.”

A supercapacitor offers a means for storing and releasing electricity, like a typical battery, but it does so with far quicker recharging and discharging times.

In the paper, the research team describe a new procedure for fabricating flexible supercapacitors based on carbon nanomaterials. This method, which is cheaper and less time-consuming than previous methods for fabricating flexible supercapacitors, involves transferring aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays from a silicon wafer to a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) matrix. This matrix is then coated in a material called polyaniline (PANI), which stores energy through a mechanism known as ‘pseudocapacitance’, offering outstanding energy storage properties with exceptional mechanical integrity.

The team showed that the enhanced, wafer-thin supercapacitor retains most of its capacitance (the amount of electric charge that can be stored) after numerous cycles at different bending conditions, demonstrating its robustness, longevity and efficiency.

“Working at the ATI on a project of that could have a positive impact on industry and our environment has been incredibly fulfilling,” said Raphael Balboni, a PhD student at UFPel. “My supervisor, Professor Silva, and the entire team at Surrey made me feel like a valuable member of the team and I was lucky enough to learn from outstanding colleagues. This is an experience that I will never forget.”

This story is adapted from material from the University of Surrey, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.

The novel flexible supercapacitor is bent into a U-shape. Photo: University of Surrey.
The novel flexible supercapacitor is bent into a U-shape. Photo: University of Surrey.