Jun 14, 2017 | By David

It’s a familiar situation: you’re in the middle of an important phonecall, or you’re navigating your way around town with Google maps, or you’re just about to smash your all-time record score on Candy Crush, then out of the blue your phone dies.

As advanced as much portable technology now is, we still have to put up with its relatively short battery life. And even if you can find a place to recharge, charging times are inconveniently long.

This situation could soon be improved, however, with the development of new super-capacitant materials. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have been using 3D printing technology to test the materials' ability to quickly store charge.

The newly developed materials are described as "hierarchically porous nitrogen-doped carbons." Through various experiments, Jasper Biemolt and Ilse Denekamp from the UvA’s Sustainable Chemistry research team were able to triple the materials’ already high specific capacitance.

Their MSc research project, whose results were published in the international chemistry journal ChemSusChem, followed up on the recent invention of this new type of supercapacitor material by Dr David Eisenberg and Prof. Gadi Rothenberg at the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences.

Biemolt and Denekamp wanted to investigate which factors affected energy storage at the suface of these materials. To test capacitance, a device designed by PhD student Thierry Slot and 3D printed from high-density polystyrene was used. It was known as ‘the Minion’ due its distinctive yellow and green coloring.

The students used the device to make measurements after isolating the nitrogen-doped carbon materials to high specifications of mechanical pressure and structural constraints. By tuning synthesis conditions, they were able to alter the number of nitrogen functionalities at the surface of the materials.

Maximising the number of transient chemical bonds formed by these faradaic reactions meant that they could maximise energy stored, thereby increasing the supercapacitor materials’ capacitance by nearly three times.

Rothenberg, inventor of the new supercapacitor material, is positive about the benefits 3D printing technology can have for chemistry research: "We are just starting to realise the potential of 3D printing for the design and printing of tailored-to-purpose lab equipment," he said. "As 3D printing becomes more accessible and more types of materials can be printed, designing of equipment for specific experiments will also become easier, and by publishing the CAD files researchers across the globe will be able to print the same equipment in their own labs."

As industries transition to using sustainable energy sources like wind and geothermal, power storage solutions also need to be improved. Supercapacitors are important power sources for the renewable energy field, as they massively improve efficiency. They are also particularly useful for applications that require fast charge/discharge cycles.

With the materials implemented more in the manufacturing sector, we could soon see significant improvements in smartphone battery life cycle and other areas.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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