Two British universities at Bristol and Surrey have seen researchers work on new-age technologies that are used to store carbon-free renewable energy, derived from natural sources like wind and sun.
Those working in the Department of Chemistry at Surrey have collaborated with two professors working from Bristol, namely Mr Ian Hamerton and Mr David Fermin, along with a company based out of the Surrey Research Park called Superdielectrics Ltd. in formulating a process that would convert hydrophilic polymers to enhance another important storage process.
In 2001, Dr Donald Highgate, based out of the University of Surrey, successfully transformed polymers that seemed like a contact lens into ion-conducted membranes to develop a highly-effective electrolyser that would break water into its two components- hydrogen and oxygen. This paved the way for the formation of the first storage technology device, which relied on hydrophilic polymers.
Cut to the present day. A team headed by Dr Brendan Howlin from the Department of Chemistry in Surrey have collaborated with Superdielectrics and the University of Bristol to lead the work in the formation of supercapacitors that rely on a modified version of hydrophilic polymer technology.
The innovations in hydrophilic polymers are the reason for the development of advanced supercapacitors that can help charge electric cars quickly.
Lithium-ion batteries have been more efficient than their predecessors, but still have their disadvantages that do not help bring down carbon emissions. Also, these batteries rely on weather conditions to function effectively.
Supercapacitors have no such drawbacks. It does not rely on temperatures and captures energy as an electric field. During their research, the personnel at the University of Surrey who played a role in the development of hydrophilic polymers realised that these could store electricity as well. Continuous research on this front is still ongoing.
Supercapacitors could also play an important role in tackling climate change in future but some research in that regard remains.