This Small Business Innovative Research Phase I program seeks to develop new functional materials for supercapacitors. Supercapacitors are indispensable energy storage devices because their performance bridges those of batteries and conventional capacitors. Supercapacitors offer 100 times the power of batteries, 10,000 times the energy of conventional capacitors, and long cycle life (>106). Supercapacitors are increasingly in demand because of their power delivery performance that fills the gap between dielectric capacitors and traditional batteries. With the growing development of renewable energy sources and hybrid electric vehicles where peak power is needed, supercapacitors are acutely sought to complement or replace batteries. Their extraordinary power capabilities make them an ideal technology for applications where pulse power is needed. Potential broad-based applications include automobile regenerative braking systems, sensors, actuators, computer systems, UPS systems, welders, cameras, and power supplies. However, conventional supercapacitors currently lack the necessary performance required by these applications.
The most significant challenges for supercapacitors are to dramatically increase their energy density and their power density. For this SBIR Phase I, Agiltron proposed a nano-engineered electrode for supercapacitors to address these two challenges simultaneously. We are developing a novel supercapacitor that will have two times the energy density and ten times the power density of the best conventional carbon-based supercapacitors. This will be achieved by fabricating a nano-enginneered electrode comprising core/shell fibrils with titanium carbide (TiC) as an inner core and carbide-derived carbon (CDC) as a shell. This novel core/shell nanostructured electrode material combines the recent breakthroughs in fabricating one-dimensional metal carbides and precision pore size engineering of carbide-derived carbon materials. Due to the metallic conductivity of TiC core, the proposed electrode inherently possesses high electrical conductivity allowing fast transport of electrons. Moreover, this new electrode design not only eliminates the use of a current collector but also drastically reduces contact resistance. These key attributes will lead to at least ten times the power density of conventional carbon-based supercapacitors. In addition, the use of nano-engineered CDC shells provides ideal electrode structure properties of high surface area, tunable pore size, and uniform pore size distribution, all contributing to achievement of energy densities that are at least two times that of conventional carbon-based supercapacitors. The novel core/shell nanostructured supercapacitors will provide unprecedented high performance that is far beyond conventional supercapacitors.
The proposed superior supercapacitors will meet the needs of quickly growing markets of hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), city buses, rails (heavy rail vehicles, tramways and metro), and renewable energy systems (wind power and solar applications). Other potential domestic applications include communication equipment, sensors, actuators, computer systems, UPS systems, welders, inverters, cameras, copy machines, car stereo amplifiers, power supplies and solar generated walkway tiles. Core/shell nanostructured materials offer the potential to provide multifunctional application in supercapacitors, solar cells, and batteries. The success of this program will stimulate enthusiastic academic and industrial interests for using core/shell nanostructured materials to address significant energy problems, and thus open new horizons that have not been imagined.