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article imageGraphene-based electrode increases solar power storage

By Tim Sandle     Apr 2, 2017 in Science
What is described as a 'groundbreaking prototype' may be the answer to the storage challenge that is holding back solar back as a complete energy solution. This is a new type of electrode that could boost storage technologies by 3000 percent.
The new electrode is inspired by the natural world - a western Swordfern, which is found in North America. The electrode has been developed by technologists based at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. The electrode is based on graphene, which is a material one atom-thick and it is a form of carbon. Graphene related topics have been widely covered on Digital Journal's science and technology pages.
The new electrode has been developed to work with supercapacitors. These devices function to charge and discharge power in a way that it is much faster than conventional batteries. Supercapacitors can be combined with solar power systems but they are limited in terms of storage capacity. The new development helps to over come this, inspired by the self-repeating patterns (known as "fractals") from the fern. The leaves of the western swordfern are densely crammed with veins which, for storing energy for the plant, makes then very efficient for storing energy and transporting water around the plant. The new electrode is based on similar fractal shapes and this allows for enhanced solar energy storage at a nano level.
READ MORE: A non-metallic magnet has been developed using graphene
When the new electrode is combined with supercapacitors this significantly increases storage capacity for solar power. In tests the prototype can hold the stored charge for longer, with minimal leakage.
The graphene-based material has not only led to the prototype electrode, it also opens the possibilty of developing a new flexible thin film to advance solar capture and storage. This could be the springboard into self-powering smart phones, laptops, cars and even buildings.
The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports, under the heading "Bioinspired fractal electrodes for solar energy storages."
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