High capacity electrochemical supercapacitors derived from human hair

Aled is a guest web-writer for EES. Aled is a PhD student working on new carbon-based porous materials for the Li-ion battery. He is currently based in Liverpool, but will be moving to Singapore for two years from April 2014. Outside of science, his interests include politics, sustainability and international development.

Researchers from China have demonstrated a simple method to fabricate high-capacity electrode materials from an abundant and low-cost precursor: human hair. The materials display impressive capacitance values of up to 340 Fg-1 – beating commercial devices by a significant margin.

Developing high-performance and low-cost energy storage systems is a key goal in renewable energy research; such devices are required for numerous green-technologies such as electric vehicles and smart grids. In comparison to batteries, supercapacitors have, at the expense of energy density, relatively high power densities, short charging times and long cycle lives. A key goal of supercapacitor research has therefore been to enhance the energy density whilst maintaining these merits, and at the same time minimising cost.

In their recent article, researchers from Soochow University, China, have demonstrated a simple method whereby porous carbon materials can be prepared by high-temperature treatment of an abundant and renewable resource – human hair. When employed as supercapacitor electrodes, the materials displayed excellent performance, with energy densities up to 340 Fg-1 and negligible capacity loss even after 20,000 charge-discharge cycles.

The authors attributed the enhanced performance to the high surface area and porosity of the materials, along with the naturally high abundance of nitrogen and sulphur found in human hair, which dope the resulting carbon after heat-treatment. So will this be the future of energy storage, or is it just a hair-brained idea?

Find out for yourself, read the full article here:

Human Hair-Derived Carbon Flakes for Electrochemical Supercapacitors
Wenjing Qian, Fengxia Sun, Yanhui Xu, Lihua Qiu, Changhai Liu, Suidong Wang, and Feng Yan
Energy Environ. Sci. 2013, Accepted Manuscript
DOI: 10.1039/C3EE43111H, Paper

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