Everyone is talking about developments in the field of energy storage, but it is only occasionally that we hear something about a technology that is different from lithium-ion. It is only recently that the attention is diverted slightly towards lithium-sulfur (Li-S) widening the prospects for a whole new set of exciting developments.
A team of engineers from Stanford University, whose work focuses on exploring and developing new and more effective energy storage means, came up with a new “designer carbon material“, which showed incredible potential.
The material resembles the commonly known and widely used in day-to-day products like deodorants and filters bio-based activated carbon, but it is synthetic. It comprises of home-made (by the team) synthetic sheets of carbon produced from highly-absorbing hydrogel and activated with potassium hydroxide.
The pore volume of the material can be controlled by changing the temperature of the fabrication process, or by using different polymers. But the key characteristic of the material, the one that makes it different and superior to any technology that uses conventional activated carbon, is the surface area. One gram of the new designer carbon material covers 4,073 square meters, which is just about the size of three American football fields.
Now, what does this mean for energy storage? The engineers conducted series of tests to compare the performance of the fabricated material against conventional activated carbon. The results showed that when the material is used in Li-S batteries or supercapacitors, the conductivity increases up to three fold, while great improvements are also noted in terms of power delivery and stability. What is more, the material was able to capture lithium polysulfides, the byproduct that is responsible for decreased performance of Li-S technologies.
The team sees huge potential of their new material in the field of energy storage. Not only that it is cheap to produce, but it can push Li-S batteries to give Li-ion a good run for their money.
More technical details can be found in the study published in the journal ACS Central Science.
Image (c) Stanford University