IDTechEx will hold a two-day nine-conference co-located event on the worlds of supercapacitors and graphene in Santa Clara, CA this November 19-20.Supercapacitors use ever more sophisticated forms of carbon with a distribution of pores matched to electrolyte ions but incremental improvement is not what is happening. This is a world of tearing up the rule book. It used to be said that toxic, flammable acetonitrile solvent was essential, but not anymore. Half of the 80+ manufacturers of supercapacitors and the intermediate supercabatteries now offer other electrolytes, mostly non-flammable and minimally toxic, though the biggest sellers are still on acetonitrile. Ionic electrolytes have no pesky solvents or solutes and they exhibit high temperature tolerance and voltage, upping vital energy density.
That was said to be academic because they cannot work below zero degrees centigrade, but not anymore. Some now work at minus 50 centigrade in the laboratory. Aqueous electrolytes were highly acidic calling for expensive metals or coatings for electrodes and giving very low voltage leading to inadequate energy density, but not anymore. Higher voltage neutral aqueous electrolytes have arrived in the laboratory. Non-flammable, non-toxic supercapacitors in some respects outperforming the traditional ones are in prospect.
The same is true of new marketing. Applications in elevators, harvesting energy, took off in Japan last year and other supercapacitors newly replace tantalum electrolytic capacitors. Next year supercapacitors will be common in mobile phones. In the laboratory, graphene supercapacitors newly exhibit the right time constants and other parameters to replace billions of dollars worth of aluminium electrolytic capacitors in inverters, for example in electric vehicles.
One common thread now emerging is lower cost density and higher energy density achieved in the laboratory with graphene and other largest area electrodes (CNT, aerogel etc). This will lead to huge new markets. It may even lead to supercapacitors and supercabatteries grabbing 50% of the lithium-ion battery market on about 15 years from now.