When you think of advanced electronics or heavy-duty electrical storage, trees may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But a team from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center has used wood waste to produce super capacitors that are as effective as advanced activated-carbon units. This offers extremely cheap and green opportunities for energy storage from wind and solar energy production.
The new supercapacitors are made from biochar and waste products can be used for fertilizers offering a green alternative to the chemical processes needed to produce regular supercapacitors.
“Supercapacitors are power devices very similar to our batteries,” said study leader Junhua Jiang, a senior research engineer at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois.
“Supercapacitors are ideal for applications needing instant power and can even provide constant power – like batteries, but at lower cost,” he said. “They are useful in transportation, electronics and solar- and wind-power energy storage and distribution.”
The process of making biochar superconductors is relatively easy and cheap. It also does not produce large amounts of chemical pollution. The wood is baked at low temperatures and then the resulting biochar is activated using a weak nitric acid solution. The acid washes away the ash and leaves pores that are needed for ion storage. The acid waste can be used as fertilizer.