Flexible and stretchy supercapacitors could boost IoT battery life

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Research undertaken by the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel) in Brazil could deliver improved battery performance for smart watches, fitness trackers and other Internet of Things devices.

In a paper published by the journal Nanoscale, researchers have been able to show how a supercapacitor can be efficiently manufactured into a high-performance and low-cost power storage device that can then be integrated into footwear, clothing, and accessories.

According to Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and Head of the Nano-Electronics Centre at the University of Surrey, “Supercapacitors are key to ensuring that 5G and 6G technologies reach their full potential. While supercapacitors can certainly boost the lifespan of wearable consumer technologies, they have the potential to be revolutionary when you think about their role in autonomous vehicles and AI-assisted smart sensors that could help us all conserve energy. This is why it’s important that we create a low cost and environmentally friendly way to produce this incredibly promising energy storage technology. The future is certainly bright for supercapacitors.”

Supercapacitors are able to store and release electricity, like a typical battery, but do so with far quicker recharging and discharging times.

In their paper, the research team described a new procedure for the development of flexible supercapacitors based on carbon nanomaterials.

This method, which is cheaper and less time-consuming to fabricate, involves transferring aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) arrays from a silicon wafer to a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) matrix. This is then coated in a material called polyaniline (PANI), which stores energy through a mechanism known as ‘pseudocapacitance,’ offering much improved energy storage properties with exceptional mechanical integrity.

The team’s enhanced, wafer-thin supercapacitor retains most of its capacitance (the amount of separate electric charge that can be stored) after numerous cycles at different bending conditions, demonstrating its robustness, longevity, and efficiency.

The research is the result of an ongoing international collaboration between the ATI, led by Professor Ravi Silva, and Brazilian higher education institutions.

The initial research work was carried out in the ATI and consisted of the growth and characterization of materials, followed by electrochemical measurements carried out at the UFPel from the NOVONANO group led by Professor Neftali Carreño.

The full paper can be accessed via the link below.