SBIR Phase I: The Development of Higher Voltage, Longer Life and Lower Cost Activated Carbon Materials for Supercapacitors

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

1086 Duncan Ave. Array
Chattanooga, TN 37404
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Project seeks to solve the problems of limited voltage, energy density, and lifetime in Electric Double Layer Capacitors (EDLCs). These issues have largely lead to the failure of EDLCs to become a significant part of the energy storage landscape. Over the years, many different efforts have focused on developing new carbon materials for EDLCs, including those focused on exotic and expensive materials such as carbon nanotubes, carbide derived carbons and Graphene. None of these have so far succeeded at matching the energy density, lifetime, or voltage range of 15 year old commercial carbon materials. This project will attempt to prove that this is related to functional groups on the carbon surface that, when assembled in an EDLC and charged, are REDOX active to form water in the electrolyte. The objective of the research will be to eliminate these species and other surface functional groups, while maintaining the exceptionally high surface area necessary for high capacitance, through precisely controlled thermal treatment of activated carbon. This will result in dramatic increases in the voltage, energy density, and life of current EDLC products. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will involve dramatically expanding the value of ultracapacitors to various applications and enhancing their societal impact. Supercapacitors have failed to meet expectations for market growth largely due to high cost, premature failure, low voltage (matching Li-ion battery voltages requires two devices in series) and low energy density, and have seen minimal technical progress over the last decade. Our technology would increase the energy density, lifetime and voltage to levels that would enable much more widespread adoption in applications currently restricted to batteries alone. Additional societal impact, and directly related commercial advantage, would stem from the fact that this technology could eliminate the requirement for exotic and expensive precursors for carbon production, allowing, for the first time, the use of inexpensive water filtration carbons. The combined lower cost and improved performance would expand EDLCs use in applications like hybrid cars, buses, wind turbine pitch control and grid storage, all of which have tremendous societal impact and where cost is the primary barrier to entry for EDLC manufacturers.