Supercapacitors will change the world

Graphene is made of carbon, arranged in to sheets a single atom thick.

Graphene is made of pure carbon, arranged in to sheets a single atom thick.

Being interested in climate change necessarily means being interested in technology…after all, it’s the high-tech world of renewable energy that will drive our transition away from fossil fuels. So I was very excited this week to learn about a breakthrough in energy storage that has been discovered using a substance called graphene.  Graphene is a polymer of pure carbon, arranged in sheets only one atom thick. In this configuration, carbon becomes one of the strongest substances on the planet, but miraculously maintains tremendous flexibility.

Graphene’s physical properties are amazing, but it’s its energy capacitance that really makes it a revolutionary substance. It’s already being dubbed a “super capacitor”, because it charges and discharges much more quickly than conventional batteries. Imagine a plugging in your phone or laptop and getting a full day’s charge in a few seconds…that’s the promise of graphene, and by extension the massive market shift it could produce by making conventional batteries obsolete. Best of all it’s dirt cheap (carbon is the most abundant element in the universe), and the processes to make graphene are stupidly simple (the scientists in the video below create it using a normal computer’s CD drive).

The discovery of graphene has especially big implications for the world of renewable energy, whose biggest hurdle has been the issue of storage. It’s important to have a way to provide power when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, and the natural answer is generate energy and store it for later. However, our current generation of battery tech to date hasn’t been able to meet this need on an appropriate scale. Graphene could change all that, by providing efficient, dirt cheap energy storage for renewable power generation of all kinds. If early tests bear out and graphene goes on to be commercialized on a large scale, it might just change the world.

2 thoughts on “Supercapacitors will change the world”

  1. I am totally geeked out by this post and video! It is amazing. Spine tingling amazing. This WILL revolutionize the future! Great find Pope!

  2. I’m wondering what the leakage rate is. The issue with other types of supercapacitor has always been that they have high leakage, so any power you put into them self-discharges pretty quickly.

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