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Liquid-Mediated Dense Integration of Graphene Materials for Compact Capacitive Energy Storage

Science  02 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6145, pp. 534-537
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239089

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Keeping Electrolytes in Porous Electrodes

Electrochemical capacitors (ECs) can rapidly charge and discharge, but generally store less energy per unit volume than batteries. One approach for improving on the EC electrodes made from porous carbon materials is to use materials such as chemically converted graphene (CCG, or reduced graphene oxide), in which intrinsic corrugation of the sheets should maintain high surface areas. In many cases, however, these materials do not pack into compact electrodes, and any ECs containing them have low energy densities. Yang et al. (p. 534) now show that capillary compression of gels of CCG containing both a volatile and nonvolatile electrolyte produced electrodes with a high packing density. The intersheet spacing creates a continuous ion network and leads to high energy densities in prototype ECs.

Abstract

Porous yet densely packed carbon electrodes with high ion-accessible surface area and low ion transport resistance are crucial to the realization of high-density electrochemical capacitive energy storage but have proved to be very challenging to produce. Taking advantage of chemically converted graphene’s intrinsic microcorrugated two-dimensional configuration and self-assembly behavior, we show that such materials can be readily formed by capillary compression of adaptive graphene gel films in the presence of a nonvolatile liquid electrolyte. This simple soft approach enables subnanometer scale integration of graphene sheets with electrolytes to form highly compact carbon electrodes with a continuous ion transport network. Electrochemical capacitors based on the resulting films can obtain volumetric energy densities approaching 60 watt-hours per liter.

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