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Super Supercapacitor

Supercapacitors store and disgorge electricity faster than batteries, and they are finding their way into everything from cars to cell phones. Now researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute, a government lab in Villigen, Switzerland, have developed a version that delivers 15 kilowatts per kilogram in just 10 milliseconds. That’s “triple what other supercapacitors can do,” says Martin Carlen, head of applied physics at ABB Corporate Research in Baden-Daettwil, Switzerland, which cosponsored the research.

A supercapacitor stores energy as concentrations of electrons at the surfaces of electrodes bathed in an electrolyte solution. The Swiss device gains its advantage from the structure of its electrodes: they have pores that are the optimal size for storing electrons and are made entirely of a material called glassy carbon. Other supercapacitors’ electrodes contain layers of different materials. Elimination of these layers lowers the supercapacitor’s electrical resistance and boosts its efficiency. ABB is seeking to license the invention to help preserve battery life in devices such as cell phones where space is at a premium.

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