"Our innovation has been to identify an unconventional electrolyte/separator system that remains stable at high temperatures," Ajayan said.
The Rice researchers led by Reddy and Rachel Borges solved both problems at once. First, they investigated using room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) developed in 2009 by European and Australian researchers. RTILs show low conductivity at room temperature but become less viscous and more conductive when heated.
Clay has high thermal stability, high sorption capacity, a large active surface area and high permeability, Reddy said, and is commonly used in muds for oil drilling, in modern construction, in medical applications and as a binder by iron and steel foundries.
After combining equal amounts of RTIL and naturally occurring Bentonite clay into a composite paste, the researchers sandwiched it between layers of reduced graphene oxide and two current collectors to form a supercapacitor. Tests and subsequent electron microscope images of the device showed no change in the materials after heating it to 200 degrees Celsius. In fact, Reddy said, there was very little change in the material up to 300 degrees Celsius.
"The ionic conductivity increases almost linearly until the material reaches 180 degrees, and then saturates at 200," he said.
Despite a slight drop in capacity observed in the initial charge/discharge cycles, the supercapacitors were stable through 10,000 test cycles. Both energy and power density improved by two orders of magnitude as the operating temperature increased from room temperature to 200 degrees Celsius, the researchers found.
|Contact: Mike Williams|