Researchers at the RMIT University have developed a new graphene-based electrode that can increase the capacity of existing integrable storage technologies by 3000%.

The new graphene-based prototype allows for a new way to develop flexible thin film all-in-one solar capture and storage, marking a step further in the development of self-powered smartphones, laptops, cars and buildings.

The new electrode has been designed to work with supercapacitors which allow faster charging compared to conventional batteries.

Even though, supercapacitors have been combined with photovoltaic cells, their drawback of limited energy storage has been a restricting factor.

According to RMIT professor Min Gu, the new design has been inspired from one of nature’s solution for filling space in the most efficient manner, known as fractals.

Gu said Laboratory of Artificial Intelligence Nanophotonics leader and RMIT Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship associate deputy vice-chancellor. “The leaves of the western swordfern are densely crammed with veins, making them extremely efficient for storing energy and transporting water around the plant.

“Our electrode is based on these fractal shapes – which are self-replicating, like the mini structures within snowflakes – and we’ve used this naturally-efficient design to improve solar energy storage at a nano level.

“The immediate application is combining this electrode with supercapacitors, as our experiments have shown our prototype can radically increase their storage capacity – 30 times more than current capacity limits.

“Capacity-boosted supercapacitors would offer both long-term reliability and quick-burst energy release – for when someone wants to use solar energy on a cloudy day for example – making them ideal alternatives for solar power storage.”

The electrodes have been fractal-enabled and laser-reduced and when combined with supercapacitors, they can hold charge for longer durations with minimal leakage.

RMIT PhD researcher and lead author Litty Thekkekara noted that because the electrodes are based on a thin film technology, there could be endless possibilities for its applications.

Image: RMIT University researchers develop new prototype electrode for energy storage. Photo: Courtesy of RMIT University.