SNM: Defect-engineered Nanocarbons for Energy Storage

Project Summary: Human prosperity has been directly linked to the ability to efficiently use energy, and requires both energy generation and storage. The impending resource crunch underlying fossil-based fuels has reinvigorated the development of alternative, renewable, energy sources. To enhance the viability of such sources, it is also necessary to provide compatible materials and devices that can store the energy for later use. In this context, recent advances in nanoscience and technology promise tremendous gains in energy storage material performance. However, a major roadblock preventing technology transfer to industry is the absence of processes for continuous and scalable manufacturing. With this end in mind, we propose novel types of electrochemical capacitors with blueprints for their scalability, to bridge and combine the fast response time and high power density of electrical capacitors with the high energy density associated with conventional batteries. The overall objective is the development of nanostructured hybrid capacitor electrodes comprised of electrically conducting polymers (ECPs) and carbon nanomaterials using manufacturing methodology. Our approach benefits from the use of highly-conductive, carbon nanomaterials with tunable properties that can accommodate swelling of redox polymers harnessing Clemson University’s expertise in large scale synthesis and characterization of nanocarbons, electroactive polymer science and technology with UCSD’s strengths in defect engineering and electrochemical analysis, and integrates validation and feedback on prototype devices and test-beds from industrial partners. The project will result in widely used hybrid electrochemical capacitors with far superior performance compared to those available today. This SNM addresses the following themes: i) Novel processes and techniques for continuous and scalable nanomanufacturing, (in which the PIs work closely with industrial partners on designing and implementing hybrid supercapacitors), and ii) Fundamental scientific research in well-defined areas that are compellingly justified as critical roadblocks to scale-up (in which the PIs aim to develop new asymmetric device configurations and optimize defect engineering of nanocarbons for the high-energy, high-power hybrid capacitors).