Scientists at the University of California/Santa Cruz have created a 3D-printed graphene supercapacitor electrode that they say is able to outperform traditional electrodes. They claim their supercapacitors exhibit “outstanding power density” and capacitance retention. The devices also have the potential for efficient storage systems for personal electronics, electric autos, sensors and more.

Yat Li and Tianyu Liu work on supercapacitors using 3D-printed graphene aerogel electrodes.Yat Li and Tianyu Liu work on supercapacitors using 3D-printed graphene aerogel electrodes. Using direct ink writing with graphene-oxide composite ink, the scientists 3D-printed micro-architected electrodes to build the supercapacitors. Recent breakthroughs helped enable the process. Specifically, the development of graphene-based printable ink, the modification of 3D printing to make it compatible with aerogel process, and finally the use of 3D printing to engineer periodic macropores into the graphene electrode made it possible to maintain the mechanical and electrical properties of single graphene sheets in a 3D-printed structure.

Graphene-based inks have ultrahigh surface area, are light weight, elastic and offer good conductivity, researchers say. The resulting graphene composite aerogel supercapacitors are highly stable. Reports show full retention of energy capacity after 10,000 consecutive charging and discharging cycles.

The team says they believe they have broken through a barrier of 2D manufacturing with a process that allows them to customize architectures to specific applications. One example is the ability to reduce the amount of space needed in a phone for energy storage, allowing for design changes.

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