PerspectiveMaterials Science

True Performance Metrics in Electrochemical Energy Storage

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Science  18 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6058, pp. 917-918
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213003

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Summary

A dramatic expansion of research in the area of electrochemical energy storage (EES) during the past decade has been driven by the demand for EES in handheld electronic devices, transportation, and storage of renewable energy for the power grid (13). However, the outstanding properties reported for new electrode materials may not necessarily be applicable to performance of electrochemical capacitors (ECs). These devices, also called supercapacitors or ultra-capacitors (4), store charge with ions from solution at charged porous electrodes. Unlike batteries, which store large amounts of energy but deliver it slowly, ECs can deliver energy faster (develop high power), but only for a short time. However, recent work has claimed energy densities for ECs approaching (5) or even exceeding that of batteries. We show that even when some metrics seem to support these claims, actual device performance may be rather mediocre. We will focus here on ECs, but these considerations also apply to lithium (Li)—ion batteries.