In case you're not familiar with the wunderkind of organic matter, graphene is technically a thin layer of pure carbon chock-full of carbon atoms latticed together in a hexagonal patchwork; but the organic material is also low-cost to produce, 207 times stronger than steel, while being the thinnest compound known to mankind and one of the best electrical conductors around to boot.

Naturally, scientists have been trying to find a variety of ways to use graphene for these self-same properties, and the latest one looks like it's a way to make batteries obsolete by replacing them with laser-induced graphene (LIG)-made supercapacitors for storing power — and as a de facto battery replacement.

Researchers at Rice University have been working on ways to make microsuperconductors out of LIG, as opposed to the usual lithographic process, which can be painstaking and time-consuming. LIG-produced supercapacitors, however, only take a few minutes to make, and all that is needed to make them are a polymide plastic sheet and a computer-operated laser.

"It's a pain in the neck to build microsupercapacitors now," said scientist James Tour, one of the leading researchers on the team, in a press release. "They require a lot of lithographic steps. But these we can make in minutes: We burn the patterns, add electrolyte and cover them." 

Compared with run-of-the-mill Lithium-ion batteries, LIG-made supercapacitors contain roughly the same energy density, with the ability to hold 934 microfarads per square centimeter; however, LIG-produced supercapacitors far outmeasure typical batteries in terms of power and do not degenerate or lose their potency over time. According to IEEE Spectrum, LIG-made supercapacitors can be bent over 10,000 times and still assume normal function. 

Despite their promising results, the team at Rice says that these supercapacitors won't be replacing Lithium-ion batteries anytime soon.

"We're not quite there yet, but we're getting closer all the time," added Tour. "In the interim, they're able to supplement batteries with high power. What we have now is as good as some commercial supercapacitors. And they're just plastic." 

Get an in-depth look at the Rice University research team's work with laser-induced graphene supercapacitors in the video below. 


Via: IEEE Spectrum

Photo: CORE-Materials | Flickr

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