Flexible supercapacitor fits into wearables

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Researchers in the UK and Brazil have developed a supercapacitor that can be integrated into footwear or clothing, an advance with applications in wearables and IoT devices.

Supercapacitor
A supercapacitor is a means to store and release electricity, like a typical battery, but it does so with far quicker recharging and discharging times (Image: Surrey University)

The research team from Surrey University’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), Brazil, show how a supercapacitor can be efficiently manufactured into a high-performance and low-cost power storage device that can be easily integrated into smartwatches, fitness trackers and other devices. Their research is detailed in Nanoscale.

In a statement, Professor Ravi Silva, director of the ATI and head of the Nano-Electronics Centre at Surrey University, said: “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.”

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In the paper, the research team describe a new procedure for the development of flexible supercapacitors based on carbon nanomaterials. This method, which is said to be 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 polyaniline (PANI), which stores energy through pseudocapacitance, which ATI said offers ‘outstanding energy storage properties with exceptional mechanical integrity’.

The team added that its wafer-thin supercapacitor retains most of its capacitance after numerous cycles at different bending conditions, demonstrating its robustness, longevity, and efficiency.

The initial research work was carried out in the ATI and consisted of the growth and characterisation of materials, followed by electrochemical measurements carried out at the UFPel by Raphael Balboni, the paper’s lead author and Ph.D. student.