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Nitrogen Supercharges Supercapacitors

Quick-charging devices might finally match lead-acid batteries for energy storage

2 min read
Nitrogen Supercharges Supercapacitors
Pores of Power! Carbon tubes, laced with the occasional nitrogen atom, make for supercapacitors that store a lot of energy.
Image: Chinese Academy of Sciences/Science

In lots of situations, theideal energy storage device is not a battery, which stores lots of energy but can’t deliver it particularly quickly. Nor is it a supercapacitor, which has limited storage but delivers what it’s got quickly. Instead it would be something that could do both. Scientists in China and the United States recently took a big step toward that ideal component when they showed that nitrogen can triple the energy storage capacity of carbon-based supercapacitors, potentially making them competitive with some batteries in terms of the amount of energy stored.

Most supercapacitors in use today rely on carbon-based electrodes because their large surface area stores more charge. “We are able to make carbon a much better supercapacitor,” says Fuqiang­ Huang, a material chemist at the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics.

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Greg Mably

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