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Graphene-Based Supercapaciors Help Boost the Development of Electric Cars

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Image credit: AlexanderAlUS, CC

Batteries appear to limit the wide application of electric cars in some respects, because they are regarded as one of the most expensive part of the vehicle with limited range compared in regard to the vehicles powered by gasoline. While some remarkable achievements have been made recently, a group of scientists from RiceUniversity and Queensland University of Technology have produced a supercapacitor film which could totally replace the requirement for a battery in the coming five years. Two papers regarding their research have been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Power Sources and Nanotechnology.

Incorporating two layers of graphene with an electrolyte layer in the middle, such supercapacitor film characteristic of being very strong and thin could give off a great deal of energy in a short period of time, which was quite vital someway.

As Marco Notarianni of QUT, who was lead author of the Nanotechnology paper said, it was necessary for vehicles to have an extra energy spurt for acceleration, so it was the job for supercapacitors. Although they house a limited amount of charge, they were capable of its quick delivery, allowing them to become the perfect complement to mass-storage batteries. When supercapacitors could provide a high power output very shortly, it meant a rapider acceleration rate of the car and a-few-minute charging time in comparison of several hours related to a standard electric car battery.

Compared with ordinary batteries which would occupy a large amount of space, the supercapacitor film could be able to be integrated into multiple areas of the vehicle, like the body panels, doors, floor and roof. Such large supercapacitor could offer the vehicle the required amount of energy and at the same time allow the vehicle itself to be much lighter.

Instead that it would take the several hours for a conventional battery to charge, the graphene-based supercapacitor film could be fully charged in a few minutes, and however, as it was possible to charge and give off energy more rapidly than conventional batteries, at present, it could not hold much energy. This was the target researchers were trying to achieve in their further study.

As Jinzhang Liu, the co-author of the papers added, it was hoped that in the future, the supercapacitor would be developed to hold more energy than a Li-Ion battery and remained able to give off its energy up to 10 times more quickly, and it meant that the car would be able to be completely powered by the supercapacitors in its body panels. Therefore, with one full charge, the vehicle car should be capable of running up to 500km, similar to a petrol-powered car, thus doubling the present limit of an electric car.

Owing to the fact that the supercapacitors were made out of graphene which was only a one-atom-thick layer of carbon, the film should be regarded as a more ecological choice. In addition, as it was much easier for carbon to be sourced than the lithium discovered in standard batteries, it should be more economical when time went by and widespread production was available.

As explained by Nunzio Motta, the lead researcher, for the time being it was impossible to greatly decrease the price of Li-Ion batteries because of the high price of Lithium.

Not relying on metals and other toxic materials, this new technique would be environmentally friendly if it should be disposed of.

Source: QUT