Tiny Wearable Power Supercapacitor Packs High Density Charge

The biggest recurring problem in creating wearable electronics is the limitation of the power sources by the size of the particular garment. Electronics have been refined over the course of the last decade with body cameras, smart glasses and a myriad of activity trackers just to name a few, but providing less cumbersome power sources is still a formidable challenge, or at least it has been up until now.


Micro SupercapacitorMicro Supercapacitor


A new wearable power source

Liming Dai, a Case Western Reserve Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering in Cleveland, Ohio, a private research university created in 1967 in conjunction with Yuan Chen, a professor of chemical engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) who led the study, have developed a new wearable power source for wearable electronics in the form of flexible, wire-shaped micro-supercapacitors that can be woven into garments such as a jacket, shirt or dress. Their research has been published in the journal, Nature Nanotechnology,

The micro supercapacitor

A capacitor is akin to a battery but it can charge and release energy at a much faster rate. Micro-supercapacitors have superior power and a longer lifetime than micro-batteries. They are not new to the wearable electronics scene, and have been around in various stages of development for about ten years, but their applications have been very limited due to the fact that their storage capacity has so far been much less than micro batteries.

Micro BatteryMicro Battery

Researchers have now developed a special electrode material that grants these wearable storage devices an energy density 1,000 times greater than any existing capacitors. This particular device has now been transformed for use into a myriad of application options ranging from mobile electronics to wireless autonomous sensor networks. Conducted by Liming Dai and Tao Chen, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular science and engineering at NTU, this study builds on earlier carbon-based storage tools.

This new micro supercapacitor has high power density but low energy density which means it can charge quickly and give a boost of power, but doesn't last long. Batteries,  on the other hand, offer the reverse situation which means they can last a long time, but don't deliver a large amount of energy quickly.

How does the micro supercapacitor work?

The design on these devices can be customized to suit the storage and delivery needs of any application. A solid electrolyte made of poly-vinyl alcohol and phosphoric acid cots the modified titanium wire, which is then wrapped with yarn or a sheet comprised of aligned carbon nano-tubes, which acts as a second electrode.The two active electrode portions are separated from the semi-conducting titanium oxide nano-tube, thus preventing the possibility of a short circuit.

The future of the micro super capacitor

The product's developers believe the storage capacity by volume at 6.3 micro-watt hours per cubic millimeter is the highest reported for carbon-based micro supercapacitors to date. The unusual, fiber-based hybrid materials are highly conductive. In the future, this device can be used in many fields: making specialty, smart textiles for the fashion industry; powering bio-medical devices for people at home that transmits data to a doctor at a hospital; woven into uniforms for communication among soldiers in the field, and as energy-carrying wires in medical implants.

Micro-electronics is a burgeoning field of engineering that can only be a boon to modern civilization.

Do you think that  new wearable power sources will evntually make the battery a thing of the past? if so, explain.

Closing thoughts on technology:

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three. ~ Alice Kahn