What makes a supercapacitor better than a battery?

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This is the conclusion of researchers from South Korea, who have argued that it would be convenient if the surfaces of rooms could be employed to charge small electronic devices without needing them to be connected to the electrical grid. Stone is a natural, eco-friendly material that is widely used as a building and renovation material for the construction of floors, countertops and decorative backsplashes. However, stone is not a material traditionally associated with energy storage technologies like batteries and capacitors.

The problem with stone is that — even when seemingly polished totally smooth — it tends to retain microscopic bumps and divots.

This makes it difficult to reliably adhere electrical components to the surface of stone.

However, researchers have recently figured out how to place so-called microsupercapacitors onto irregular surfaces like polished stone using lasers.

Microsupercapacitors are small energy storage devices that have excellent power storage capabilities as well as fast charging and discharging rates.

In their study, mechanical engineer Professor Bongchul Kang of Seoul’s Kookmin University and his colleagues have applied this approach to assemble microsupercapacitors onto marble surfaces.

To do this, the team first patterned onto a marble surface a solution of copper oxide nanoparticles in two comb-like shapes whose prongs were interspersed.

A near-infrared laser was then shone on the nanoparticles, producing pure copper electrodes that were porous, highly conductive and firmly attached to the underlying stone.

To form the microsupercapacitor, the researchers next deposited manganese oxide on one electrode and iron oxide on the other to form an anode and cathode, respectively.

Finally, the team connected the electrodes with an electrolyte layer made from a lithium perchlorate and polymer solution.

Each of the energy storage devices covered a surface of around two inches wide.

When the team fabricated nine of the devices together in a three-by-three grid, they found that enough energy could be stored up in order to light up an LED.

Furthermore, the microsupercapacitor devices were shown to be able to maintain a high energy storage capacity even after 4,000 charge–discharge cycles.

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According to Professor Kang and his colleagues, the energy storage devices are extremely durable against harsh impacts — resisting being dropped, trodden on and hit with a hammer.

On the flip side, however, the microsupercapacitor materials can be easily removed to recycle the underlying marble, the team noted.

They explained: “Due to the superior inertness and mechanical strength of the stone material, the marble substrate could be fully recycled through a stone-refreshing procedure, such as sandpaper rubbing and cleaning.”

The full findings of the study were published in the journal ACS Nano.

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