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This Paper-Thin Supercapacitor Offers the Promise of Thinner, Lighter Mobile Devices, But Dashes Hopes

Battery life is the Achilles heel of all mobile devices, and while the latest battery tech research coming out of California won’t fix the problem it is a step in the right direction.

Gizmodo reports that a research team at UCLA has come up with a new supercapacitor which is thinner than a sheet of paper, quick to charge, and can match batteries with its energy storage density, ounce for ounce.

Well, it can match the energy density of some batteries, any way.

super capacitor

When I first read that story I was all excited, and was going to gush about the new tech, but then I got to the actual statistics.

The new supercapacitor is about one-fifth as the thick as a sheet of paper, and it can store 42 Watt-hours per liter. That is about on par with lead acid batteries, which is good news, but it is also far below the capacity of the lithium-ion battery you have in your mobile device.

According to Wikipedia, lithium-ion can range from 250 to 600 Watt-hours per liter. That means a lithium-ion battery can store anywhere from six to 15 times as much power in the same volume as the new supercapacitor.

Sure, the new supercapacitor has a storage density about six times that of existing capacitors, but that’s still not good enough for most mobile devices. Even though this new tech should be cheaper to make than existing supercapacitors, energy density is the deciding factor on how it’s going to be used.

While this is a big step forward, I think we have a long way to go before this tech can replace the batteries in the mobile devices we use everyday.


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jjj April 2, 2015 um 7:51 pm

You could look at it in a more optimistic way.
Every week we see a new battery tech revolution but nothing happens so i got fed up of even paying attention years ago. But lets say their claims are accurate and the cost is viable.
You do have plenty of applications , wearables, toys, hybrid (supercap+ battery) solutions, maybe home energy storage.
Being thin helps too in some applications
In mobile devices hybrid solutions could be viable, using the supercap as a "cache" and after you unplug it keeps charging the battery. Another factor is that wireless chargers lead to the device being charged more often but often not to 100% so wireless could allow many users to not require a full day of battery if the charge time is shorter.
Another application in mobile could be for modular devices (like Asus padfone ,or Project ARA), at some point the math could favor a superccap in the smaller unit for some independence and fast charging time.

William D. O’Neil April 2, 2015 um 9:36 pm

Tilt! There’s no such place as "UCLA Berkeley." It could be the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), or the University of California at Berkeley (UCB).

High capacity capacitors have a lot of implications for devices that don’t involve serving as energy sources.

Nate Hoffelder April 2, 2015 um 10:58 pm

Whoops. I should have seen that. Fixed it.

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