Published on Monday March 5, 2012
An international team of materials researchers including
Distinguished University and Trustee Chair Professor Yury Gogotsi has given the engineering world a
better look at the inner functions of the electrodes of
supercapacitors - the low-cost, lightweight energy storage devices
used in many electronics, transportation and many other
In a piece published in the March 4 edition of Nature Materials (C. Merlet, B.
Rotenberg, P.A. Madden, P.-L. Taberna, P. Simon, Y. Gogotsi, and M.
Salanne, "On the molecular origin of supercapacitance in nanoporous
carbon electrodes," Nature Materials (2012) DOI:
10.1038/NMAT3260), Gogotsi, and his collaborators from universities
in France and England, take another step toward finding a solution
to the world's demand for sustainable energy sources.
Gogotsi teamed with Mathieu Salanne, Céline Merlet and Benjamin
Rotenberg from the Université Paris 06, Paul A. Madden from Oxford
University and Patrice Simon and Pierre-Louis Taberna of Université
Paul Sabatier. What the group has produced is the first
quantitative picture of the structure of ionic liquid absorbed
inside disordered microporous carbon electrodes in supercapacitors.
Supercapacitors have the capability of storing and delivering
more power than batteries; moreover, they can last for up to a
million of charge-discharge cycles. These characteristics are
significant because of the intermittent nature of renewable energy
According to the researchers, the excellent performance of
supercapacitors is due to ion adsorption in porous carbon
electrodes. The molecular mechanism of ion behavior in pores
smaller than one nanometer-one billionth of a meter- remains poorly
understood. The mechanism proposed in this research opens the door
for the design of materials with improved energy storage
The authors suggest that in order to build higher-performance
materials, researchers should know whether the increase in energy
storage is due to only a large surface area or if the pore size and
geometry also play a role. The results of this study provide
guidance for development of better electrical energy storage
devices that will ultimately enable wide utilization of renewable
"This breakthrough in understanding of energy storage mechanisms
became possible due to collaboration between research groups from
four universities in three countries," Gogotsi said. "Moreover, the
team used carbon structure models developed by our colleagues Dr.
Jeremy Palmer and Dr. Keith Gubbins from the North Carolina State
University. This is a clear demonstration of the importance of
collaboration between scientists working in different disciplines
and even in different countries."
This international collaboration is exemplified in the Master
Program in Materials for Energy Storage and Conversion (MESC)
offered jointly by Universities in France, Poland, Spain, China and
the US (Drexel University), in which students spent four semesters
studying in at least three different countries and obtaining
important international experience, in addition to knowledge in the
energy field. Currently, 3 MESC students perform their master
thesis research at Drexel.