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HIGH SCHOOL NANOSCIENCE PROGRAM

Supercapacitors

Background

Purpose: Portable electronic devices like cell phones and laptops exist because of energy storage in the form of batteries, capacitors, and supercapacitors. In vehicles, electric engines have much higher energy efficiencies than combustion engines, and they are enabled by energy storage devices. In addition, energy storage is necessary for some renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, which are inherently intermittent in nature. Much research is being done with nanosized materials to make energy storage devices cheaper, last longer, and charge faster.
In this experiment, students will be making and using supercapacitors. Supercapacitors are energy storage devices that utilize the high surface area of nanostructured carbon to store charge. This type of charge storage is called non-faradaic because no redox reactions take place: charge is stored through the formation of an electric double layer between the nanostructured carbon and the electrolyte.

Overview: Working in groups of 4, students will make carbon dough electrodes, assemble them into supercapacitors, assemble a circuit for charging the supercapacitors, and then test the supercapacitors using the circuit.