Scientists Develop Better Energy Storage Devices for Vehicles Using Detergents

Think you can only clean your smelly clothes using you trusty detergent? Well, think again. According to a journal published in Nature Materials, there is a new kind of detergent related to laxatives that can vastly improve how energy is stored in energy storage devices called supercapacitors.

What are supercapacitors?

Supercapacitors bridge the gap between rechargeable batteries and electrolytic capacitors. They normally store around 10 to 100 times more energy per unit volume or mass than electrolytic capacitors, and can charge faster than typical car batteries. Moreover, they are used in applications requiring many rapid charge/discharge cycles.

Detergents: Ionic Liquids

According to the study, these detergents (or ionic liquids), are better electrolytes compared to the aqueous and organic electrolytes that are commonly used in supercapacitors today. Ionic liquids, which appear liquid-like at room temperature, are more stable and environment-friendly compared to the traditional electrolytes. This makes them effective energy storage devices for hybrid vehicles.

"We engineered a new class of ionic liquids that can store energy more efficiently," co-author of the journal, Xianwen Mao from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) explained. "These detergent-like ionic liquids can self-assemble into sandwich-like bilayer structures on electrode surfaces. And that is very reason why they give better energy storage performance."

The soap-like electrolytes can distribute itself exactly--properties its share with the common detergent. It forms structures on the electrode surface, giving better energy storage capacities depending on the temperature and voltage applied to it. This feature also allows them to store more energy.

So which vehicle is the best one to use these unusual substances? According to the report, they're ideal for hybrid vehicles using supercapacitors, since they offer better power and efficiency compared to car batteries.

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