Graphene, carbon nanotube ultracapacitors could boost performance and cut costs

April 23, 2014 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Researchers at the George Washington University's Micro-propulsion and Nanotechnology Laboratory have created an ultracapacitor that is both high performance and low cost.

The device, described in the Journal of Applied Physics, capitalizes on the synergy brought by mixing graphene flakes with single-walled carbon nanotubes, two carbon nanostructures with complementary properties.

Ultracapacitors are souped-up energy storage devices that hold high amounts of energy and can also quickly release that energy in a surge of power. By combining the high energy-density properties of batteries with the high power-density properties of conventional capacitors, ultracapacitors can boost the performance of electric vehicles, handheld electronics, audio systems and more.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes and graphene both have unique and excellent electronic, thermal, and mechanical properties that make them attractive materials for designing new ultracapacitors, said Jian Li, first author on the paper. Many groups had explored the use of the two materials separately, but few had looked at combining them, he said.

A scanning electron microscope image shows the ultracapacitor's composite film containing graphene flakes and single-walled carbon nanotubes. Courtesy: Journal of Applied Physics.