Structural Materials with Intrinsic Power Storage Capability

G.E. Lindberg, C.C. Browder, C. Ciocanel
Northern Arizona University,
United States

Keywords: supercapacitor, electrolyte resin, power storage, built-in power, multifunctional material

Summary:

Portable electronics, electric vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and solar panels, are just a few of the systems that require some form of electrical power storage for optimal operation. With batteries being bulky and having a relatively short operational life, other means of power storage need to be developed to facilitate future development of sleek and lightweight mobile devices, drones, electric vehicles, etc. One approach is to develop new materials that can provide both structural and power storage functionality. Our group is working on the development of such a material that aims to exhibit mechanical properties similar to those of carbon fiber based composites and power storage capability similar to that of supercapacitors. The supercapacitor power storage principle is being pursued because the storage relies on electrostatic charge, not on redox chemistry, the former having been demonstrated to allow for millions of charge-discharge cycles without degradation of the electrodes or electrolyte. The latter is a critical requirement for a structural material that is generally expected to operate at load carrying capacity for a long period of time. Our material is composed of carbon fiber electrodes and a glass microfiber separator bound by a stable, solid-state gel polymer electrolyte (GPE). An electrically insulating, yet mechanically strong coating is then applied on the material to prevent charge leakage. In this poster, we discuss the layout of the power storage capable structural material developed by our group, some of its mechanical and electrochemical characteristics, as well as challenges that need to be overcome for a faster development of the material. We also discuss strategies for improving the overall material performance, immediate possible applications of the material, and target benchmarks for the next developmental phase of the material.