“Our work shows researchers how to accelerate the development of high-performance materials for use as energy storage elements, a key component of solar or wind energy systems.”Ravi Silva, University of Surrey

Researchers from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) in the UK and the University of São Paulo in Brazil have developed a new analysis technique that will help scientists improve renewable energy storage by making better supercapacitors. The team’s new approach allows researchers to investigate the complex inter-connected behavior of supercapacitor electrodes made from layers of different materials.

Improvements in energy storage are vital if countries are to deliver carbon reduction targets. The inherent unpredictability of energy from solar and wind means effective storage is required to ensure consistency in supply, with supercapacitors predicted to play an important role.

Supercapacitors could also be the answer to charging electric vehicles much faster than is possible with lithium-ion batteries. However, more supercapacitor development is needed to allow them to effectively store enough electricity.

In a paper in Electrochimica Acta, the researchers explain how they utilized a cheap polymer material called polyaniline (PANI), which stores energy through a mechanism known as pseudocapacitance. PANI is conductive and can be used as the electrode in a supercapacitor device, storing charge by trapping ions.

To maximize its energy storage, the researchers developed a novel method for depositing a thin layer of PANI onto a forest of conductive carbon nanotubes. This composite material makes an excellent supercapacitive electrode, but the fact that it is made up of different materials makes it difficult to fully understand the complex processes that occur during charging and discharging. This is a problem across the field of pseudocapacitor development.

To tackle this problem, the researchers adopted a technique known as the Distribution of Relaxation Times. This analysis technique can be used to distinguish and examine complex electrode processes, making it possible to optimize fabrication methods to maximise useful reactions and reduce reactions that damage the electrode. It can also be applied by researchers using different materials in novel supercapacitors and pseudocapacitors.

“The future of global energy use will depend on consumers and industry generating, storing and using energy more efficiently, and supercapacitors will be one of the leading technologies for intermittent storage, energy harvesting and high-power delivery. Our work will help make that happen more effectively,” said Ash Stott, a postgraduate research student at the University of Surrey, who was the lead scientist on the project.

“Following on from world leaders pledging their support for green energy at COP26, our work shows researchers how to accelerate the development of high-performance materials for use as energy storage elements, a key component of solar or wind energy systems,” said Ravi Silva, director of the ATI and principal author of the paper. “This research brings us one step closer to a clean, cost-effective energy future.”

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.