Energy technology miniaturisation for a smarter Australia

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The prospects of your smartphone not needing a recharge before the day’s end are one step closer following recently published research from Monash University on supercapacitor miniaturisation.

The collaboration between Monash’s Nano Scale Engineering Laboratory and their industry partner, Ionic Industries, addresses several important performance limitations of current batteries.” The miniaturisation of supercapacitors will enable devices to hold much more energy in the same or lesser volume, have higher peak power, be fully recharged in minutes and last much longer than current battery technologies.

The market for supercapacitors (estimated at US$5bn with 20 per cent growth per annum) is predominantly in consumer electronics but with increasing applications in transport, construction, medicine, food, defence and other sectors meaning that this ground-breaking research has the potential to transform markets across a broad range of applications.

Associate Professor Mainak Majumder of Monash University’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Laboratory linked the research to Moore’s law:

“50 years ago, Moore wrote that every two years transistor density in circuits would double. Today we see a world ever more reliant on electronics shrinking in size and increasing in power. Traditionally supercapacitor efficiency was limited by the large distance ions have to travel between sheets of porous carbon. By using micro technology we have placed the positive and negative electrodes in one plane separated by a much smaller distance. Here we have shown that when the size of the electrodes becomes smaller, the amount of energy and power these supercapacitors can deliver per unit volume becomes exceedingly large,” Professor Majumder said.

Dr Parama Chakraborty-Banerjee, the lead electrochemist behind the studies said, “The unprecedented performance of these micro-supercapacitors has strengthened our theoretical understanding and comprehensively proved that miniaturisation of super-capacitors whereby edge effects are maximised represents the most promising evolution of this technology.”

Mr. Derrek Lobo, the graduate student who fabricated the devices added, “We are able to fabricate supercapacitors smaller than the diameter of human hair, with exceptionally high energy and power densities. We undertook relentless experiments for over two years in the face of doubts raised by established groups.”

The Monash research, published in Advanced Energy Materials (Impact Factor 16), was made possible by an ARC Linkage grant allowing Monash to work with Ionic Industries in paving the way for Australian ‘smart manufacturing’ and intellectual property utilising graphene – hailed as a “wonder material” with extraordinary properties. Ionic Industries is a spin-off from Strategic Energy Resources (ASX: SER).

“This vindicates our decision to back Monash on this exciting research and our confidence that the research will have real-world commercial applications,” said Ionic Industries CEO Mark Muzzin. “We are now planning to accelerate our efforts to produce prototype devices for demonstrating this technology.”