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Battery breakthrough: scientists use a DVD burner to create graphene supercapacitors

April 2, 2012

When it comes to the raw computing power they are able to harness, smartphones have definitely come a long way over the last few years. While the software was able (to a certain extent) to keep up with the hardware advancements, one very important smartphone component is basically the same as it was when the first smartphones started rolling out: the battery.

A pain in a very sensitive place for both manufacturers and users, Li-Ion batteries take up more space than all other components but are still unable to provide decent autonomy. Although you can always make them bigger (as seen on the Droid RAZR Maxx or the new iPad), you can only go up to certain point before design will suffer.

Fortunately, it looks like a team of researchers led by UCLA’s Richard Kaner was able to create graphene supercapacitors that are able to discharge three times more watts per cm3 when compared to current lithium-ion batteries.

graphene supercapacitors

The most interesting part is that the researchers were able to produce these graphene supercapacitors with a simple LightScribe DVD writer, priced at only $50. It turns out that if you put a graphite oxide film on a blank DVD, you can then use the laser inside a DVD burner to turn the graphite oxide into graphene, the most conductive material known to man. Use a couple of slices of graphene, place an electrolyte in the middle, and the end result will be a supercapacitor. I’m not sure you should try this at home if you’re not a world renowned scientist, though.

The laser scribed graphene (LSG) has a number of very interesting physical properties. You can find them all here, but it’s worth mentioning that the LSG supercapacitor is highly flexible, should provide up to three times the autonomy of a Li-Ion battery and suffers no degradation over 1000 discharge cycles. So far, we have no idea when this technology will become available, but is sure seems promising.