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Super Capacitors: Powering Innovations from Electric Transport to Military Directed Energy Weapons

Introduction:

In the world of energy storage, supercapacitors have emerged as a game-changing technology. With their unique properties and capabilities, they are revolutionizing diverse sectors, ranging from electric transport to military applications like directed energy weapons. In this blog article, we will explore how supercapacitors are fueling innovations in these fields and reshaping the way we think about energy storage.

 

Understanding Supercapacitors

The rapid increase in global energy consumption and the environmental impact of traditional energy resources pose serious challenges to human health, energy security, and the environment; and reveal a growing need to develop new types of clean and sustainable energy conversion and storage systems, such as batteries and supercapacitors for electric vehicles with low exhaust emissions.

Supercapacitors, also known as ultracapacitors or electrochemical capacitors, are energy storage devices that store energy by separating charge in an electrostatic field. They are similar to traditional capacitors, but have much higher energy density and power density, allowing them to store and release energy much more quickly than batteries.

Supercapacitors, also called as ultracapacitors, are electrochemical energy storage devices that combine the high energy-storage-capability of conventional batteries with the high power-delivery-capability of conventional capacitors. They have many advantages, such as high power density, high energy density, long cycle life, fast charge and discharge, instantaneous high current discharge, low cost, easy maintenance and no pollution to the environment

Unlike batteries, which store electricity through a chemical reaction, capacitors store energy in an electric field.  Charging is done by applying a voltage differential on the positive and negative plates of the capacitor. They have several advantages over batteries, such as faster charging and discharging, longer cycle life, and higher power density, but also have lower energy density.

Applications

Supercapacitors are used in a variety of applications, including renewable energy systems, electric vehicles, and consumer electronics. These devices have earned their significance in numerous applications, viz., to power hybrid electric/electric vehicles and other power and electronic systems which require electrical energy for their operation.

 

Electric Transport:

The main factors discouraging motorists  from switching to electric vehicles are the high investments cost, their short driving ranges and the lack of charging stations. Another major obstacle en route to the mass acceptance of electric cars is the charging time involved. The minutes involved in refueling conventional cars are so many folds shorter that it makes the situation almost incomparable. However, the charging durations could be dramatically shortened with the inclusion of supercapacitors. These alternative energy storage devices are fast charging and can therefore better support the use of economical energy in electric cars.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining momentum as a sustainable alternative to traditional combustion engine vehicles. Super capacitors play a crucial role in this transition. Unlike conventional batteries, supercapacitors offer high power density and rapid charge-discharge capabilities. They enable regenerative braking, which recovers and stores energy during deceleration, enhancing overall efficiency. Supercapacitors also provide the quick bursts of power needed for accelerating, ensuring smoother and more responsive driving experiences.

Moreover, supercapacitors are ideal for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), where they complement traditional batteries. By working in synergy, supercapacitors and batteries optimize energy storage, extending battery life and enhancing overall system performance.

Supercapacitors make a lot of sense for transit as  they remove the requirement of  overhead wires, and  since they start and stop frequently they can charge up quickly when they stop. An electric bus would have to carry enough batteries to power it for its entire run; a supercap powered bus or tram only has to make it to the next stop. According to the China Academy of Sciences website and China Daily, the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) has built a light rail system using supercaps that can be fully charged in a 30 second stop and then run three to five kilometres to the next stop. Eighty-five percent of the energy generated from braking the train is returned to the capacitors. It can travel at 70 km/h and hold 380 passengers.

Renewable Energy Integration:

Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, play a vital role in our transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future. Supercapacitors help address the intermittency challenge of renewables. They store excess energy generated during periods of high production and release it during peak demand, effectively balancing supply and demand. This ability to rapidly absorb and deliver energy makes them essential in stabilizing power grids and ensuring reliable energy supply.

Portable Electronics and Wearable Devices:

In the realm of portable electronics and wearable devices, supercapacitors offer significant advantages. Their fast charging capabilities and long cycle life make them ideal for smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other gadgets that require frequent charging. Supercapacitors can provide quick bursts of power to support high-performance computing and connectivity while extending battery life. Additionally, their flexibility and lightweight properties enable seamless integration into wearable devices, ensuring uninterrupted functionality and enhancing user convenience.

Aerospace and Military Applications:

Supercapacitors have found applications in the aerospace and defense sectors, including military directed energy weapons. These advanced weapons systems require rapid bursts of high-power energy. Supercapacitors deliver the necessary power density and reliability to support these demanding applications. They can quickly charge and discharge, providing intense energy pulses for directed energy weapons, such as lasers or electromagnetic railguns. Supercapacitors’ ability to withstand high operational stresses, perform in extreme temperatures, and maintain their performance over long periods makes them indispensable in modern defense technologies

Supercapacitor technology

Supercapacitors are also known as ultra-capacitors or electrochemical capacitors which utilize high surface area electrode materials and thin electrolytic dielectrics to achieve capacitances of several orders of magnitude larger than conventional capacitors.

Supercapacitors have many advantages over the LI-ion battery , they charge extremely fast ( 1-10 secs) compared to 10-60 min of LI Ion. They have high specific power, stroing 10,000 watts per kg compared to 1000-3000 by LI ion and have millions of charge cycles compared to 500 of battery. However, their specific energy is very small 5 Wh/ Kg compared to 100-200 of battery.

Despite the above-mentioned non-beneficial properties, the market of electric storage devices is still dominated by batteries. There are two reasons for this: one being that the energy density (i.e. the energy that can be stored in unit mass or volume) of batteries largely exceeds that of the supercapacitors, and the other being the self-discharge.

The magnitude of the leakage current in the case of batteries and supercapacitors follows a voltage-dependent and temperature-dependent curve, but while in the case of batteries it usually takes months for the charge to drop below 80%, in the case of supercapacitors it is usually a matter of hours.

Supercapacitors can be made from a variety of materials, including carbon-based materials, metal oxides, and conducting polymers. The choice of material depends on the specific application and desired properties.

One of the main challenges in supercapacitor technology is improving the energy density, or the amount of energy that can be stored per unit of volume or weight. Researchers are exploring various approaches to increase the energy density, such as developing new materials and improving the design and fabrication of supercapacitor electrodes.

Key requirements for supercapacitor electrodes are a large surface area and conductivity, combined with a simple production method. Another growing issue in supercapacitor production—mainly for smartphone and electric car technologies—is sustainability.

Meanwhile, supercapacitors are also facing challenges such as technical problems, establishing electrical parameter models, consistency testing, and establishing industrial standards.

Another area of research in supercapacitor technology is improving the performance at high temperatures. Supercapacitors can be sensitive to high temperatures, which can lead to reduced performance and lifetime. Researchers are working on developing new materials and structures that can withstand high temperatures and maintain their performance.

In addition to improving the performance and energy density of supercapacitors, researchers are also exploring new applications for this technology. One area of interest is in grid-scale energy storage, where supercapacitors could be used to store excess energy from renewable sources and provide backup power during peak demand.

Overall, supercapacitor technology is a promising area of research with the potential to revolutionize energy storage and enable new applications in a variety of fields.

Research in supercapacitor technology is ongoing, with a focus on increasing energy density and improving performance. Some of the latest developments include the use of graphene and other 2D materials, as well as the development of hybrid systems that combine the best properties of supercapacitors and batteries.

For deeper understanding of Supercapacitor technology and applications please visit: Supercharged Energy Storage: Exploring Supercapacitors for a Sustainable Future

Recent supercapacitor breakthroughs

There have been several recent breakthroughs in supercapacitor technology that have the potential to significantly improve their performance and energy density. Here are a few examples:

  1. New materials: Researchers have developed new materials for supercapacitor electrodes, such as graphene and other 2D materials, which have high surface area and excellent electrical conductivity. These materials have the potential to significantly increase the energy density of supercapacitors.
  2. Hybrid systems: Researchers are developing hybrid supercapacitor-battery systems that combine the high power density of supercapacitors with the high energy density of batteries. These systems have the potential to provide high power and high energy storage, making them ideal for electric vehicles and other applications.
  3. 3D printing: Researchers have used 3D printing to create supercapacitor electrodes with complex geometries and high surface area. This approach has the potential to enable the fabrication of supercapacitors with high performance and low cost.
  4. High-temperature performance: Researchers have developed supercapacitors that can operate at high temperatures, which is important for applications such as electric vehicles and renewable energy systems.
  5. Micro-supercapacitors: Researchers have developed micro-supercapacitors that are small enough to be integrated into electronic devices, such as wearable electronics and sensors. These devices have the potential to enable new applications in these fields.

Overall, these recent breakthroughs in supercapacitor technology are paving the way for new applications and improved performance in a variety of fields.

Energy storage breakthrough could boost EV range and slash charge time

Lithium-ion batteries could be under threat after the development of polymer materials by the Universities of Bristol and Surrey, along with Superdielectrics Ltd, that could challenge the dominance of these traditional batteries – and they are ready to demonstrate their results. Only one year ago, the partners announced scientific results for novel polymer materials that have dielectric properties 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than existing electrolytes (electrical conductors). These stunning scientific findings have now been converted into ‘device’ scale technical demonstrations.

Researchers from the universities achieved practical capacitance values of up to 4F/cmon smooth low-cost metal foil electrodes. Existing supercapacitors on the market typically reach 0.3F/cm2 depending upon complex extended surface electrodes. More significantly, the researchers managed to achieve results of 11-20F/cmwhen the polymers were used with specially treated stainless-steel electrodes – the details of which are being kept private pending a patent application.

If these values of capacitance can be achieved in production, it could potentially see supercapacitors achieving energy densities of up to 180whr/kg  – greater than lithium ion batteries holds around 100-120 watt-hours per kilogram.

Based on these impressive results, Superdielectrics Ltd, the company behind this technology, is now looking to build a research and low volume production centre.  If successful in production, the material could not only be used as a battery for future mobile devices, but could also be used in refuelling stations for electric cars.

Supercapacitors based Battery will let phones charge in seconds and last for a week

A new type of battery that lasts for days with only a few seconds’ charge has been created by researchers at the University of Central Florida. The high-powered battery is packed with supercapacitors that can store a large amount of energy. It looks like a thin piece of flexible metal that is about the size of a finger nail and could be used in phones, electric vehicles and wearables, according to the researchers.

 

“If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” said Professor Nitin Choudhary, one of the researchers behind the new technology.

 

To date supercapacitors weren’t used to make batteries as they’d have to be much larger than those currently available. But the Florida researchers have overcome this hurdle by making their supercapacitors with tiny wires that are a nanometre thick. Coated with a high energy shell, the core of the wires is highly conductive to allow for superfast charging.

 

“For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density and cyclic stability,” said Prof Choudhary. Cyclic stability refers to the number of times a battery can be fully charged and drained before it starts to degrade.

 

Sustainable highly conductive electrode materials from ultrathin carbon nanofiber aerogels derived from nanofibrillated

Carbon aerogels are ultralight, conductive materials, which are extensively investigated for applications in supercapacitor electrodes in electrical cars and cell phones. The authors also demonstrated that their wood-derived carbon aerogel worked well as a binder-free electrode for supercapacitor applications. The material displayed electrochemical properties comparable to commercial electrodes.

 

Another growing issue in supercapacitor production—mainly for smartphone and electric car technologies—is sustainability. However, sustainable and economical production of carbon aerogels as supercapacitor electrode materials is possible, propose Shu-Hong Yu and colleagues from the University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China. Chinese scientists have now found a way to make these electrodes sustainably. The aerogels can be obtained directly from cellulose nanofibrils, the abundant cell-wall material in wood, finds the study reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

New kind of supercapacitor made without carbon

However, all supercapacitors currently use components made of carbon, which require high temperatures and harsh chemicals to produce. Now researchers at MIT and elsewhere have for the first time developed a supercapacitor that uses no conductive carbon at all, and that could potentially produce more power than existing versions of this technology.

 

Mircea Dincă, an MIT associate professor of chemistry; Yang Shao-Horn, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy have found an entirely new class of materials for supercapacitors. Dincă and his team have been exploring for years a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, which are extremely porous, sponge-like structures. These materials have an extraordinarily large surface area for their size, much greater than the carbon materials do. That is an essential characteristic for supercapacitors, whose performance depends on their surface area. But MOFs have a major drawback for such applications: They are not very electrically conductive, which is also an essential property for a material used in a capacitor.

 

“One of our long-term goals was to make these materials electrically conductive,” Dincă says, even though doing so “was thought to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.” But the material did exhibit another needed characteristic for such electrodes, which is that it conducts ions (atoms or molecules that carry a net electric charge) very well.

 

“All double-layer supercapacitors today are made from carbon,” Dincă says. “They use carbon nanotubes, graphene, activated carbon, all shapes and forms, but nothing else besides carbon. So this is the first noncarbon, electrical double-layer supercapacitor.” One advantage of the material used in these experiments, technically known as Ni3(hexaiminotriphenylene)2, is that it can be made under much less harsh conditions than those needed for the carbon-based materials, which require very high temperatures above 800 degrees Celsius and strong reagent chemicals for pretreatment.

 

The new devices produced by the team, even without any optimization of their characteristics, already match or exceed the performance of existing carbon-based versions in key parameters, such as their ability to withstand large numbers of charge/discharge cycles. Tests showed they lost less than 10 percent of their performance after 10,000 cycles, which is comparable to existing commercial supercapacitors.

 

But that’s likely just the beginning, Dincă says. MOFs are a large class of materials whose characteristics can be tuned to a great extent by varying their chemical structure. Work on optimizing their molecular configurations to provide the most desirable attributes for this specific application is likely to lead to variations that could outperform any existing materials. “We have a new material to work with, and we haven’t optimized it at all,” he says. “It’s completely tunable, and that’s what’s exciting.”

 

 

While the MOF material has advantages in the simplicity and potentially low cost of manufacturing, the materials used to make it are more expensive than conventional carbon-based materials, Dincă says. “Carbon is dirt cheap. It’s hard to find anything cheaper.” But even if the material ends up being more expensive, if its performance is significantly better than that of carbon-based materials, it could find useful applications, he says.

 

Micro supercapacitors could revolutionize the way we use batteries by increasing their lifespan and enabling extremely fast charging.

When a supercapacitor is combined with a battery in an electrically powered product, the battery life can be extended many times -up to 4 times for commercial electric vehicles. And whether for personal electronic devices or industrial technologies, the benefits for the end consumer could be huge.

Now, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have developed a method that represents a breakthrough for how such supercapacitors can be produced.

But in practice, today’s supercapacitors are too large for many applications where they could be useful. They need to be about the same size as the battery they are connected to, which is an obstacle to integrating them in mobile phones or electric cars. Therefore, a large part of today’s research and development of supercapacitors is about making them smaller — significantly so.

Agin Vyas and his colleagues have been working with developing ‘micro’ supercapacitors. These are so small that they can fit on the system circuits which control various functions in mobile phones, computers, electric motors and almost all electronics we use today. This solution is also called ‘system-on-a-chip’.

One of the most important challenges is that the minimal units need to be manufactured in such a way that they become compatible with other components in a system circuit and can easily be tailored for different areas of use. The new paper demonstrates a manufacturing process in which micro-supercapacitors are integrated with the most common way of manufacturing system circuits (known as CMOS).

“We used a method known as spin coating, a cornerstone technique in many manufacturing processes. This allows us to choose different electrode materials. We also use alkylamine chains in reduced graphene oxide, to show how that leads to a higher charging and storage capacity,” explains Agin Vyas.

“Our method is scalable and would involve reduced costs for the manufacturing process. It represents a great step forward in production technology and an important step towards the practical application of micro-supercapacitors in both everyday electronics and industrial applications.”

A method has also been developed for producing micro-supercapacitors of up to ten different materials in one unified manufacturing process, which means that properties can be easily tailored to suit several different end applications.

 

Super capacitor Market

The supercapacitor market has been growing in recent years, driven by the increasing demand for energy storage solutions with high power density and fast charging times.

Global Supercapacitor Market is valued at USD 5.02 Billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 22.50 Billion by 2028 with a CAGR of 23.9% over the forecast period. Increasing production of super capacitor-based hybrid electric vehicles, smart grids, and renewable energy systems owing to environmental concerns are expected to boost the growth of the supercapacitors market over the forecast period.

One of the main drivers of the supercapacitor market is the growing demand for electric vehicles, which require high-performance energy storage solutions that can provide fast charging times and high power density. Supercapacitors are ideal for this application, as they can charge and discharge quickly and have a longer cycle life than traditional batteries.

In addition to electric vehicles, supercapacitors are being used in a variety of other applications, including renewable energy systems, consumer electronics, and industrial machinery. The increasing adoption of these applications is expected to drive the growth of the supercapacitor market.

The market for supercapacitors is also being driven by the ongoing research and development of new materials and technologies, which is leading to improved performance and energy density. As the technology continues to improve, the cost of supercapacitors is expected to decrease, making them more competitive with traditional batteries.

Overall, the supercapacitor market is expected to continue growing in the coming years, driven by the increasing demand for energy storage solutions with high power density and fast charging times.

 

Growing number of renewable energy generation plants to fuel market growth 

There has been an elevating demand for sustainable energy solutions across the globe. This is credited to the growing environmental cognizance of the masses, rising emission levels, and increasing instances of fossil fuel depletion. People have shifted their inclination towards the use of renewable energy sources. This has led to the increase in the number of renewable energy generation plants. Supercapacitors are widely deployed across solar and wind power plants owing to their capacity of storing large volume of energy while providing electrical stability and high capacitance to microgrids. These factors in turn are stimulating the overall dynamics of the Global Supercapacitor Market. 

Rising adoption of electric vehicles to boost industry development  

Due to stringent emission regulations and growing environmental consciousness, there has been an increasing adoption of electric vehicles across the globe. Supercapacitors are one of the primary components of EVs as they exhibit fast charge and discharge duration and posses an extended lifecycle. They further enable fast energy collection in these vehicles while reducing battery loads. This in turn is adding traction to the growth of this industry sphere.

 

Market Regional Analysis 

North America dominates the global market accounting largest market share and is expected to dominate the market over the forecast period. Transition to sustainable technologies, such as electric vehicle adoption, and the growing investment in renewable energy in the U.S. and Canada will fuel the growth potential of the market. According to Brandessence Research Report on U.S, the increased deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in the New Policies Scenario, which includes the impact of announced policy ambitions, global electric car sales reach 23 million and the stock exceeds 130 million vehicles in 2030. The increasing amount of business investments in this region is anticipated to increase industry growth. Hence, the high demand for electronics like mobile, tablets, and others are also driving for the region in the forecast period. According to Brandessence Research Report in 2016, the United States total national vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by 3.3 % to 1.58 trillion miles compared to its  value 1.54 trillion miles, they were 30 plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) models and 37 hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) models available in the United States , the Sales of HEVs were slowly declining but PEV sales hit an all-time record of 159,616 units during the year, several additional automobile manufacturers announced plans to offer all electric vehicles by the 2020.

The supercapacitor market is at the nascent stage and is expected to exhibit exponential rate in the Asia Pacific region during the forecast period. The automotive industry has been growing rapidly in China, and the country is playing an increasingly important role in the global automotive market. In addition, the government of China views its automotive industry, including the auto parts sector, as one of the country’s pillar industries. According to Brandessence Research Report of 2018 in China, the Electric mobility continues to grow rapidly, the global electric car fleet exceeded 5.1 million, up 2 million from the previous year and almost doubling the number of new electric car registrations, The People’s Republic of China remained the world’s largest electric car market. Moreover in Japan, utility providers are incorporating smart electricity meters. The Japanese government has also shifted its focus to demand-side management and there is an increased emphasis on energy security and resiliency through the smart grid and energy efficiency technologies.

Asia Pacific is predicted to be the quickest developing region. The automotive sector has been developing swiftly in China, and the nation is playing a gradually essential role in the global automotive sector. The Government of China sees its automotive sector, comprising the auto parts industry, as one of the nation’s pillar sectors.

The popularity of EVs is increasing all over the world, and China is seen as the leading adopter of EVs. The 13th Five-Year Plan of China markets the growth of green transportation solutions, such as electric and hybrid vehicles, for enhancements in the nation’s transportation industry. The nation is an early acceptor of new tech that powers EVs.

Together with the electrification of its transportation, China is investing billions into a high-speed national railway network, bus, and subways. The nation has also assisted fund Shenzhen’s pursuit of enhanced buses. Furthermore in Japan, utility suppliers are adding smart electricity meters. The government of Japan has also shifted its aim to demand-end management and there is an elevated stress on energy resiliency and security via the energy efficiency and smart grid techs.

 

Industry

At present, there are thousands of supercapacitor manufacturers around the world, of which Asian players occupy up to about 57%, followed by American ones with the share of around 26% and European counterparts holding 8%. Among them, Japan, the United States, Russia, South Korea and some European countries master comparatively mature technologies, dominating the global market.

 

As foreign countries started earlier in the field of supercapacitors and held advanced technologies, Japan-based Panasonic and Nec Tokin, the United States-based Maxwell and other foreign products ever seized more than 90% share of the Chinese market. But with the emergence of Chinese supercapacitor companies, the share of foreign products has dropped to about 60%.

 

Competitors identified in this market include, among others: AVX Corporation (USA), Cap-Xx Ltd. (Australia), Evans Capacitor Company (USA), Ioxus Inc. (USA), LS Mtron Ltd. (South Korea), Maxwell Technologies, Inc. (USA), Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Japan), Nippon Chemi-Con Corporation (Japan), Skeleton Technologies GmbH (Germany), Spel Technologies Private Limited (India), TOKIN Corporation (Japan).

 

In terms of products, China’s competitiveness in button-type supercapacitors is weak, while foreign products account for almost 90% of the market segment. As for winding-type and large supercapacitors, China’s technical level is close to the international level, and the China-made supercapacitors make up 60%-70% of this domestic market segment.Supported by national policies, a number of Chinese listed companies have got involved in the supercapacitor industry, mainly including Nantong Jianghai Capacitor, Chengdu Xinzhu Road & bridge Machinery and Anhui Tongfeng Electronics

 

Conclusion:

Supercapacitors have emerged as a transformative technology, powering innovations across various sectors. Their unique characteristics, such as high power density, rapid charge-discharge capabilities, and long cycle life, enable applications ranging from electric transport to military directed energy weapons. As research and development in supercapacitors continue, we can expect further advancements in energy storage technology, leading to cleaner, more efficient, and sustainable solutions for our energy needs.

The future holds great promise for supercapacitors, with ongoing efforts focused on enhancing their energy density, improving cost-effectiveness, and exploring new materials and manufacturing techniques. With their potential to drive sustainable innovation and revolutionize energy storage, supercapacitors are poised to play a vital role in shaping our energy landscape and powering a more sustainable future.

 

References and Resources also include:

http://news.mit.edu/2016/supercapacitor-made-without-carbon-1010

https://www.treehugger.com/public-transportation/supercapacitors-could-be-better-batteries-or-fuel-cells-clean-electric-powered-transit.html

http://www.autonews.com/article/20171114/BLOG15/171119889/french-tech-company-nawa-sees-ultracapacitor-battery-breakthrough

http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2018/february/supercapacitor.html

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-sustainable-highly-electrode-materials-ultrathin.html

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-01/scp-ntf011420.php

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220228091138.htm

About Rajesh Uppal

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