Nearly a year ago the Internet was all abuzz about the latest development in a laboratory at UCLA, when researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the California NanoSystems Institute announced that they had made a discovery that could overhaul the way we use and store energy with a stunningly simple process.
The researchers in March 2012 showed on the Web how they could spray a carbon substance onto the surface of a DVD, put that DVD into a DVD burner just like the ones found in nearly every modern PC, and out would pop a custom printed graphene supercapacitor: a layer of carbon one-atom thick capable of absorbing and holding onto an electric charge, like the chemical batteries we use in everything today, only much lighter and with much faster charging times.
As with all of these so-called miracle breakthroughs that we hear are going to revolutionize the way we live, this massive discovery needs time for more research to bring it from a laboratory to a factory, and to solve all the associated scaling and production issues.
Now the researchers are back with a progress update, and the production process has gotten easier and faster, while the supercapacitor has grown in capacity.
"We are now looking for industry partners to help us mass-produce our graphene micro-supercapacitors," said Richard Kaner, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
Numerous potential benefits from the product are making all sorts of industries excited by the technology's capabilities.
Theoretically, once developed, the capacitors could hold the same charge as your cellphone battery, but fully charge in only a few seconds. An electric car could become charged in one minute. Solar panel manufacturers are interested in the possiblity of putting the thin sheets on the back of solar panels, to hold energy gathered during the day and to be used at night or during peak hours.
Because of how thin they are, the supercapacitors are flexible, able to bend in half. They could be put anywhere, on a sticker. Your pants could keep your phone charged.
While good progress is being made, we still aren’t there, though. But maybe one day soon, when we all give up on physical media, the DVD burners in our PCs can be turned into battery factories. Some guys in California did it.