Science Camps at UCLA: The Supercapacitor…to the Rescue!

By Phill Powell

It’s the kind of research that could lead to a big change in how we use power. The substance is called graphene, and the scientists who discovered how to make it were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Science.

Graphene, shown here under an electron microscope, could change the way the world creates and stores electricity.

Further research pioneered at the University of California, Los Angeles, by UCLA Chemistry and Biochemistry professor Richard Kaner has shown that not only could graphene be created in large quantities but also that the material could actually replace metallic batteries as a power source. And not just replace batteries, but actually improve them.

While electronics devices typically require hours to be fully recharged, the same process using graphene could be up to a thousand times faster. With graphene cells, it could take as little as 30 seconds to a minute to completely recharge a smartphone or tablet computer. Graphene could become a more sustainable way to power cars, which could be “refueled” at charging stations.

Batteries VS. Supercapacitors
Supercapacitors take the best aspects of batteries and replace their weaker points. For example, batteries offer high energy storage, but charging and discharging them is a slow process. A capacitor improves that with faster charge and discharge, although capacitors aren’t capable of the high storage of batteries.

Supercapacitors, on the other hand, combine the best properties of both batteries and conductors, offering high energy storage as well as fast charge and discharge.

Kaner and research assistant maher el-Kady found a way to synthesize graphene on a larger scale. They started with graphite oxide, which was applied to sheets of plastic, before exposing it to laser light. The process removes the oxygen from the substance, turning it into graphene.

The real breakthrough moment occurred when el-Kady connected a small piece of graphene to a small light bulb. After only charging the graphene for 2 to 3 seconds, the graphene then powered the bulb for more than 5 minutes—demonstrating a potentially high-yield energy solution.

Cutting-Edge Science Camps at UCLA
Science requires constant experimentation, and UCLA has consistently proven itself to be a leader in scientific research. This summer, campers of all ages attending Digital Media Academy’s tech camps at UCLA will be able to select from several courses that focus on science.

UCLA – a great place to learn about the amazing worlds of science.

For aspiring scientists or engineers, DMA’s Jr. Adventures in Machines & Engineering camp introduces children (age 6-8) to fundamental principles about how things work and how machines are developed. For kids (age 8-12), DMA’s Adventures in Science & Engineering camp teaches more advanced concepts related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) learning, such as basic computer programming, the mechanics of simple machines and solar engineering. Teens (age 13-17) will love DMA’s Robotics & Programming for Teens camp, which shows them how to design and build their own robots, using the LEGO® Mindstorms NXT robotics kit.