Energy storage technologies are among the most important to modern life, as it is only because of them that the portable electronics we rely on can be portable. Presently batteries dominate the field, but researchers are constantly advancing supercapacitors, which have some properties superior to batteries. Now researchers at Vanderbilt University have successfully created the world's first silicon-based supercapacitor.
Batteries store energy in chemical reactions, which can hold a lot of it, but take a while to charge and discharge. Supercapacitors however store energy by separating charged ions on the surface of a porous material, which allows the supercapacitors to charge and discharge in minutes. Typically supercapacitors are made of carbon and attempts to make them from silicon have failed, because silicon reacts with the electrolytes that provide the ions. Due to silicon's deep presence in modern technology though, researchers continually turn to it, and now the Vanderbilt researchers have found a way to stabilize it. By placing silicon-carbide in a furnace at 600-700 ºC, the researchers found layers of graphene had grown over the silicon, which blocks the silicon from touching and reacting with the electrolytes. The researchers also found the graphene greatly increased the energy density of the supercapacitors to beyond that of modern, commercially available supercapacitors.
Being made out of silicon, it is possible we could find these supercapacitors being integrated into chips and powering the circuitry. What may be more likely though is that excess silicon from the production of a number of devices may be made into supercapacitors.
Source: Vanderbilt University