Researchers at UCLA have hit upon on a scientific breakthrough that promises to change the way power is stored. The research team has found a way to create a non-toxic, highly efficient super capacitor that can be charged quickly and will hold more electricity than standard batteries. What's more, the team may well have found a way to make that process scale up to mass-production levels.
The energy storage concept makes use of graphene, a simply carbon polymer that, unlike batteries, is environmentally benign and is not only biodegradable but compostable. Lab researcher Maher El-Kady created sheets of graphene a single carbon atom thick by covering a plastic surface with graphite oxide solution and bombarding it with precisely controlled laser light. In laymen's terms, he painted a DVD with a liquid carbon solution and stuck it into a standard-issue DVD burner. That means they found out how to make cheap graphene sheets one atom thick, which hold a surprising amount of charge without further modification.
The real world applications of this breakthrough are staggering. Beyond electronic devices like cell phones, the technology can be scaled up for electric cars or storage devices for wind turbines and solar collectors. Currently it takes hours to charge up an electric car. Such vehicles would become more viable if they can be “refueled” as quickly as a gasoline powered car.
The UCLA researchers are looking for an industrial partner to build their super capacitor units on an industrial scale.