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New carbon material shows promise of storing large quantities of renewable electrical energy
Date:9/16/2008

Engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have achieved a breakthrough in the use of a one-atom thick structure called "graphene" as a new carbon-based material for storing electrical charge in ultracapacitor devices, perhaps paving the way for the massive installation of renewable energies such as wind and solar power.

The researchers believe their breakthrough shows promise that graphene (a form of carbon) could eventually double the capacity of existing ultracapacitors, which are manufactured using an entirely different form of carbon.

"Through such a device, electrical charge can be rapidly stored on the graphene sheets, and released from them as well for the delivery of electrical current and, thus, electrical power," says Rod Ruoff, a mechanical engineering professor and a physical chemist. "There are reasons to think that the ability to store electrical charge can be about double that of current commercially used materials. We are working to see if that prediction will be borne out in the laboratory."

Two main methods exist to store electrical energy: in re-chargeable batteries and in ultracapacitors which are becoming increasingly commercialized but are not yet as popularly known. An ultracapacitor can be used in a wide range of energy capture and storage applications and are used either by themselves as the primary power source or in combination with batteries or fuel cells. Some advantages of ultracapacitors over more traditional energy storage devices (such as batteries) include: higher power capability, longer life, a wider thermal operating range, lighter, more flexible packaging and lower maintenance, Ruoff says.

Ruoff and his team prepared chemically modified graphene material and, using several types of common electrolytes, have constructed and electrically tested graphene-based ultracapacitor cells. The amount of electrical charge stored per weight (called "specific capacitance") of the gr
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Contact: Rod Ruoff
r.ruoff@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-4691
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert

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