Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC Santa Cruz have recently succeeded in 3D-printing supercapacitors using an ultra-lightweight graphene aerogel, opening the door to novel, unconstrained designs of highly efficient energy storage systems for smartphones, wearables, electric cars and wireless sensors.
Using a 3D-printing process called direct-ink writing and a graphene-oxide composite ink designed at the Lab, the LLNL team was able to print micro-architected electrodes and build supercapacitors able to retain energy on par with those made with electrodes 10 to 100 times thinner.
“This breaks through the limitations of what 2D manufacturing can do,” said engineer Cheng Zhu, the paper’s lead author. “We can fabricate a large range of 3D architectures. In a phone (for instance) you would only need to leave a small area for energy storage. The geometry can be very complex.”
“We’re pioneering the marriage of 3D-printing and porous materials,” said material and biomedical scientist Fang Qian, a co-author on the paper. “Think of a supercapacitor as a portable energy device, so anything that needs electricity would benefit from such a supercapacitor. If we can replace the standard (technology) with our lightweight, compact and high-performance supercapacitor, that would be a radical change.”