Kaner Group’s research featured in Nature Middle East

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A recent article by Professor Richard Kaner and his team on next-generation supercapacitors was featured in Nature Middle East.

The Nature Middle East article was published on March 15, 2017.

The results are described in a study titled “Next-Generation Activated Carbon Supercapacitors: A Simple Step in Electrode Processing Leads to Remarkable Gains in Energy Density” published online March 7, 2017 in the journal Advanced Functional Materials

Nature 033017 Montage
The Kaner group research team: postdoc Dr. Jee Youn Hwang (Ph.D. ’16), graduate student Mengping Li, postdoc Dr. Maher El-Kady, and Prof. Richard Kaner.

Richard Kaner, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and materials science and engineering at UCLA, is leading the research that could revolutionize the way we depend on batteries. “The rapidly growing market of portable electronics has increased the demand for reliable, fast charging and miniaturized energy storage devices” say Richard Kaner. “Besides batteries, supercapacitors have garnered a great deal of attention due to their high power density, excellent low-temperature performance, and essentially unlimited charge/discharge cycles” he adds. Supercapacitors have the ability to recharge in seconds instead of the hours typical in traditional batteries. Today, virtually all supercapacitors available in the market use activated carbon, often derived from coconut shells as the active material. While these carbon supercapacitors demonstrate excellent electrochemical performance, their low capacity and flammability of the electrolyte have limited the widespread adoption of this technology. 

Prototype Supercapacitors
Sample of prototype supercapacitors made with laser treated activated carbon electrodes. 

“In order to increase the capacity of carbon supercapacitors, there have been a lot of interest in new materials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes; however, activated carbon still dominates the market. Instead of relying on new materials, our team has focused on solving problems of existing activated carbon technology,” says Maher El-Kady, a postdoctoral researcher in the Kaner Lab and chief technology officer at Nanotech Energy, Inc. “We built our supercapacitors following the same protocols currently utilized in industry with only one change: the electrodes have been laser irradiated” El-Kady adds. The laser generates tiny channels in the electrodes, which is shown to provide an effective method for ion storage during charge and discharge. We then added electrochemically active species into the electrolyte that work synergistically with the electrodes to increase the capacity of the cell. “This approach results in activated carbon supercapacitors with eight times higher charge storage capacity when compared to those currently available in the market” says lead author Jee Youn Hwang. 

Unlike commercial supercapacitors made with flammable organic electrolytes, our supercapacitors utilize nonflammable water based electrolytes that are likely to increase the safety of next-generation supercapacitors” says Mengping Li, graduate student in the Kaner Lab.

A member of the UCLA faculty since 1987, Kaner is a former Fulbright, Guggenheim, Packard and Sloan fellow, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the Materials Research Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Kaner’s work has been recognized through numerous other national awards and fellowships including the Materials Research Society (MRS) Medal (2015), an ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials (2012), and the ACS Tolman medal (2010). In 2014, he was selected by the UCLA Academic Senate to present the 115th Faculty Research Lecture and was profiled in the UCLA Newsroom story, “Changing people’s lives – one groundbreaking material at a time.”

Visit the Kaner Laboratory website to learn more about their research.