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Apr 17 2019

What is a Supercapacitor?

I Introduction

Supercapacitor refers to a new type of energy storage device between traditional capacitors and rechargeable batteries. It not only has the characteristics of rapid charge and discharge of capacitors, but also has the energy storage characteristics of batteries.

This article introduces the definiton, working, characteristics, types and applications of supercapacitors. Also, we compare supercapacitors with capacitors, discuss the possiblity of replacing batteries with supercapacitors. 

Supercapacitor Basics

Catalog

I Introduction

II What is a Supercapacitor?

III How Does Supercapacitor Work?

IV Characteristics of Supercapacitors

V Advantages and Disadvantages of Supercapacitors

5.1 Advantages

5.2 Disadvantages

VI Application of Supercapacitors

6.1 Main Application Fields

6.2 Application Examples

VII Comparison of Supercapacitor, Ordinary Capacitor and Battery

VIII Types of Supercapacitors

8.1 Carbon Electrode, Noble Metal Oxide Electrode and Conductive Polymer Electrode Capacitors

8.2 Double Layer Capacitors and Faraday Quasi-capacitors

8.3 Symmetric and Asymmetric Supercapacitors

8.4 Aqueous and Organic Solution Supercapacitors

IX One Frequently Asked Question about Supercapacitor

II What is a Supercapacitor?

Basic introduction of supercapacitor: Name&History

Supercapacitors, also known as electrochemical capacitors, electric double layer capacitors, gold capacitors, and farad capacitors, are electrochemical components that have been developed by polarized electrolytes since the 1970s and 1980s. It is different from the traditional chemical power source. It is a kind of power source with special performance between the traditional capacitor and the battery.

Supercapacitors are first and foremost capacitors. It is unprecedented for capacitors to achieve farad levels. The meaning of "super" is that compared with general capacitors, it has super large electrical energy storage capacity, while at the same time it retains super power characteristics. This provides opportunities for certain applications-fast charge and fast discharge, fast charge and slow discharge (long discharge time), slow charge and fast discharge.

Supercapacitors mainly rely on the electric double layer and the redox tantalum capacitor to store electric energy. However, there is no chemical reaction in the process of energy storage. This energy storage process is reversible, and it is precisely because this supercapacitor can be repeatedly charged and discharged hundreds of thousands of times.

Definition of Supercapacitor in Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, a supercapacitor is a high-capacity capacitor with a capacitance value much higher than other capacitors, but with lower voltage limits, that bridges the gap between electrolytic capacitors and rechargeable batteries.

A Simple Explanation by Techopedia

A supercapacitor is a type of capacitor that can store a large amount of energy, typically 10 to 100 times more energy per unit mass or volume compared to electrolytic capacitors. It is preferred to batteries owing to its faster and simpler charging, and faster delivery of charge.

The Structure of the Supercapacitor

Although there are many supercapacitor manufacturers in the world that can provide many types of supercapacitor products, most products are based on a similar electric double layer structure. Supercapacitors are very similar in structure to electrolytic capacitors. The main difference is the electrode material.

Structure of Aluminium Electrolytic Capacitors VS Ultracapacitor EDLC

Figure1. Structure of Aluminium Electrolytic Capacitors VS Ultracapacitor EDLC

The electrodes of the early supercapacitors used carbon. The surface area of the carbon electrode material is very large. The size of the capacitor depends on the surface area and the distance between the electrodes. It can be very large, most supercapacitors can achieve farad level, the general capacitance range is 1 ~ 5000F.

III How Does Supercapacitor Work?

Supercapacitors, also known as electrochemical capacitors, differ from conventional electrostatic capacitors in how much energy they store. As an energy storage or output device, the amount of its energy storage performance is the size of the electrical capacity. According to the supercapacitor energy storage mechanism, its principles can be divided into:

1) Double-layer capacitors generated at the interface of electrode P solution through the directional arrangement of electrons and ions or dipoles.

The two-layer theory was proposed by Helmhotz et al in the late 19th century. There are several representative theories and models about double layer, among which Helmhotz model is the most simple and can fully explain the working principle of double layer capacitor. According to the model, the electrostatic charge on the metal surface will absorb some irregular distribution ions from the solution, so that they are arranged in a row at a certain distance from the electrode on one side of the P solution interface, forming an interface layer with equal amount of charge and opposite sign of remaining charge on the electrode surface. As a result, two layers of charge form on the electrode and in the solution, commonly known as the double layer. The double layer can store electrical energy. The capacity of the capacitor can be calculated using the following formula:

Formula

In the formula, E is the energy storage capacity of the capacitor; C is the capacitance of the capacitor; V is the working voltage of the capacitor. It can be seen that the capacity of the electric double layer capacitor is related to the electrode potential and the properties of the material itself. Generally, in order to form a stable electric double layer, a polarized electrode with good conductivity is generally used.

2) In the two-dimensional and quasi-two-dimensional space of the electrode surface or bulk phase, the electroactive material undergoes underpotential deposition, and highly reversible chemical adsorption, desorption, or redox reactions occur, producing a Faraday quasi-capacitor related to the electrode charging potential .

In the electroactive material, as the electrochemical process existing in Faraday's charge transfer chemical changes progresses, underpotential deposition or redox reactions occur on the polarized electrodes, and the charge-discharge behavior is similar to a capacitor, but different from a secondary battery. The differences are:

(1) The voltage on the polarized electrode is almost linear with the amount of electricity;

(2) When the voltage has a linear relationship with time d V/dt=K, the charging and discharging current of the capacitor is a constant value I=Cd V/dt=CK. This process is a dynamic reversible process, which is different from the secondary battery but Similar to static electricity. The difference between a Faraday capacitor and an electric double layer capacitor is that the electric double layer capacitor needs to consume electrolyte during the charging process, while the Faraday capacitor maintains a relatively stable electrolyte concentration throughout the charging and discharging process.

Faraday quasi-capacitance is not only generated on the surface of the electrode, but can also be generated inside the electrode. Its maximum charge and discharge capacity is controlled by the ion orientation and charge transfer speed on the surface of the electroactive material, so charge transfer can be performed in a short time, that is High specific power (specific power greater than 500W/kg).

How Supercapacitors Work

Figure2. How Supercapacitors Work

IV Characteristics of Supercapacitors

(1) The charging speed is fast, and it can reach more than 95% of its rated capacity by charging for 10 seconds to 10 minutes;

(2) The cycle life is long, and the number of deep charge and discharge cycles can reach 10,000 to 500,000 times, without "memory effect";

(3) The high current discharge capacity is super strong, the energy conversion efficiency is high, the process loss is small, and the high current energy cycle efficiency is ≥90%;

(4) High power density, up to 300W/KG~5000W/KG, equivalent to 5~10 times of battery;

(5) The raw material composition, production, use, storage and dismantling process of the product are not polluted, and it is an ideal green environmental protection power source;

(6) The charging and discharging circuit is simple, no charging circuit like rechargeable battery is needed, and the safety factor is high, and the maintenance is long-term maintenance-free;

(7) Good ultra-low temperature characteristics, temperature range -40 ° C ~ +70 ° C;

(8) Easy to detect, the remaining power can be read directly;

(9) The capacity range is usually 0.1F--1000F.

Supercapacitors

Figure3. Maxwell Supercapacitors

V Advantages and Limitations of Supercapacitors

Supercapacitors are not superior in every aspect of the process, which requires the advantages and disadvantages of the device to be mastered when using supercapacitors. Due to the limitations of manufacturing technology, there are still some shortcomings in installation and debugging when using supercapacitors in China. Many equipments cause circuit failures due to blind use of supercapacitors, which affects the performance of the entire equipment. As a new product of capacitors, the advantages exhibited by supercapacitors are significantly greater than the disadvantages.

5.1 Advantages

Supercapacitors are an upgrade of common capacitor devices, and many improvements have been made to early capacitors.

Capacitance

Conventional capacitors used in the early days have a small amount of capacitance storage and can only meet the circuit requirements of small loads. The capacitance level of supercapacitors can reach the Farad level and can be adapted to more complex circuit operation needs.

Circuit

Supercapacitors have lower requirements on the circuit structure, and do not need to be equipped with special charging circuits and control discharge circuits, and the use time of the capacitors is not affected by overcharge and overdischarge.

Welding

Ordinary capacitors cannot be soldered. When the supercapacitor is mounted, soldering can be performed as needed to prevent battery contact failure and other phenomena, and the performance of the capacitor component is improved.

Environmental protection

It is a green energy source that is less polluting to the environment than other conventional capacitors.

Advantages of Supercapacitors

Figure4. Advantages of Supercapacitors

5.2 Limitations

Through the performance test of supercapacitors, it is found that this new type of capacitor also has disadvantages. Such as:

Leakage

The installation position of the supercapacitor is unreasonable, which easily causes problems such as electrolyte leakage and damages the structural performance of the capacitor.

Circuit

Supercapacitors are limited to the use of DC circuits. This is because the internal resistance of supercapacitors is larger than that of aluminum electrolytic capacitors, which is not suitable for the operation of AC circuits.

Effectiveness

The energy density is not high, and the efficiency of long-term discharge is not as good as that of batteries.

Price

Since supercapacitors are a new generation of high-tech products, they are relatively expensive when they are introduced to the market, increasing the cost of equipment operation.

VI Application of Supercapacitors

6.1 Main Application Fields

(1) Solar energy system

The use of solar energy sources ultimately comes down to the use of solar energy and sunlight. Solar power generation is divided into photovoltaic power generation and photothermal power generation, of which photovoltaic power generation is the use of photovoltaic cells to directly convert solar energy into electrical energy.

The energy storage system composed of battery packs can smooth out the electric energy fluctuation caused by the fluctuation of the sun's light intensity, and can also compensate for the voltage sag or sudden rise in the power grid system, but due to its limited number of charge and discharge times, the high current charge and discharge time is slow , So its service life is shorter and the cost is higher. Therefore, the use of super capacitor banks in solar photovoltaic power generation systems will make their grid-connected power generation more feasible.

Supercapacitors in Solar System

Figure5. Supercapacitors in Solar System

  • Wind power generation system

Wind energy is a randomly changing energy source. The change of wind speed will cause the output power of the wind turbine to fluctuate, which will affect the power quality of the power grid. The supercapacitor can adapt to the large current fluctuations of wind energy due to its tens of thousands of charge and discharge cycle life and high current charge and discharge characteristics. It can absorb energy under the conditions of sufficient sunlight or strong wind during the day, and weak at night or wind Discharge at the time, so that the fluctuation of wind power can be smoothed, and a more effective grid connection can be achieved.

Supercapacitors Solve the Unreliabity of Wind Turbine Pitch Control

Figure6. Supercapacitors Solve the Unreliabity of Wind Turbine Pitch Control

  • New energy vehicles

In the field of new energy vehicles, supercapacitors can be used in conjunction with secondary batteries to achieve energy storage and protect the battery. Usually super capacitors are used in conjunction with lithium-ion batteries. The perfect combination of the two forms a stable, energy-saving and environmentally friendly power supply for power vehicles, which can be used in hybrid vehicles and pure electric vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries solve the problems of charging and storing energy for cars and providing lasting power for cars. The mission of supercapacitors is to provide high-power auxiliary power for cars when starting and accelerating, and to collect and store energy when the car is braking or idling. The super capacitor can quickly recover and store energy when the car decelerates, downhill, and brakes. It can safely convert the excess irregular power generated by the car into the charging energy of the battery to protect the safe and stable operation of the battery; when starting or accelerating First, the battery transfers the energy into the super capacitor, which can provide the peak energy required in a short time.

  • Intelligent distributed power grid system

1) Provide short-term power supply

Microgrids often need to absorb some active power from conventional distribution networks. Therefore, when the microgrid is converted from the grid-connected mode to the isolated grid mode, there will be a power shortage. The installation of energy storage equipment will help the smooth transition of the two modes.

2) Used as an energy buffer

Supercapacitor energy storage system can store the excess power of the power supply when the load is low, and feed back to the microgrid to adjust the power demand at the peak of the load. The characteristics of super capacitors with high power density and high energy density make it the best choice for handling peak loads, and the use of super capacitors only needs to store energy equivalent to peak loads.

3) Improve the power quality of the microgrid

Energy storage system plays a very important role in improving the power quality of microgrid. Through the inverter control unit, the reactive power and active power provided by the super capacitor energy storage system to users and the network can be adjusted, so as to achieve the purpose of improving power quality. Because supercapacitors can quickly absorb and release high-power electric energy, they are very suitable for application to the power quality adjustment device of the microgrid to solve some transient problems in the system, such as instantaneous power outages and voltage swells caused by system failures. , Voltage sag, etc. At this time, super capacitors are used to provide fast power buffering, absorb or supplement electrical energy, and provide active power support for active or reactive power compensation to stabilize and smooth the fluctuation of grid voltage.

Maxwell Grid Energy Storage System

Figure7. Maxwell Grid Energy Storage System

  • Military equipment field

In mobile communication base stations, satellite communication systems, and radio communication systems, a large pulse discharge power is required, and the high power output characteristics of supercapacitors can meet the power requirements of these systems.

In addition, laser weapons also require high-power pulse power supply. If it is mobile, it must have a high-power generator set or a large-capacity battery. Its weight and volume will greatly reduce the mobility of the laser weapon. The super capacitor can output high power and can be fully charged in a short time. It is the best power source for laser weapons. In addition, supercapacitors can also be used in tactical weapons (electromagnetic bombs) as the core components of bomb generators (FCC).

  • Motion control field

In modern high-rise buildings, the energy consumption of elevators is second only to air conditioning. In the past, elevators used mechanical braking to dissipate this energy in the form of heat, which was not only wasted, but also the excess heat increased the temperature of the machine room, increasing the burden and cost of heat dissipation. The super capacitor can be used as an energy recovery device in the elevator system to recover energy due to its excellent characteristics such as large current charge and discharge.

Supercapacitors can also be used in ventilation, air conditioning, water supply and drainage systems in the construction field as starting devices. In addition, supercapacitors can also be used in power stations, converters, and railway systems, including electromagnetic valve control systems, distribution panel opening and closing, railway switch control devices, etc.

Fixed port machinery equipment and mobile machinery can also realize the braking energy recovery during the ascent process and the potential energy recovery during the descent process by using supercapacitors.

The super capacitor can be used as an auxiliary power supply for the working power of the diesel engine starting system on the aircraft, which can provide the large impact current required by the aircraft engine at the moment. In addition, it can also solve the problem of insufficient power at the moment of starting the aircraft by the 422 series power vehicle, so as to DC The power car power generation system, especially the internal combustion engine, has great protection.

Supercapacitor-based Energy Recovery System

Figure8. Supercapacitor-based Energy Recovery System

6.2 Application Examples

(1) Electric tools and electric toys.

(2) In the UPS system, the super capacitor provides instantaneous power output as a supplement to the backup power supply of the engine or other uninterrupted systems.

(3) Applied to energy with sufficient energy and lack of power, such as solar energy.

(4) Power support when the bus switches from one power source to another.

(5) Small current, continuous discharge for a long time, such as computer memory backup power supply. 

VII Comparison of Supercapacitor, Ordinary Capacitor and Battery

Comparison table

Parameter

Super Capacitor

Ordinary Capacitor

Battery

Energy storage

Watt-second energy

Watt-second energy

Watt-hour energy

Charging method

Voltage across the two ports (ie, with battery)

Voltage across the two ports (ie, with battery)

Current and voltage

Power supply

Fast discharge, linear or exponential voltage decay

Fast discharge, linear or exponential voltage decay

Maintain a constant voltage for a long time

Charging/discharging time

milliseconds to seconds

picoseconds to milliseconds

1 to 10 hours

Dimensions

Small

Small to Large

Large

Weight

1g to 2g

1g to 10kg

1g to >10kg

Energy density

1 to 5Wh/kg

0.01 to 0.05Wh/kg

8 to 600Wh/kg

Power density

High, >4000W/kg

High, >5000W/kg

Low, 100-3000W/kg

Operating voltage

2.3V to 2.75V (each section)

6V to 800V

1.2V to 4.2V (each section)

Life

>100,000 cycles

>100,000 cycles

150 to 1500 cycles

Working temperature

﹣40 to ﹢85℃

﹣20 to ﹢100℃

﹣20 to ﹢65℃

Can Supercapacitors Replace Batteries?

The answer to this question depends largely on their application. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. As mentioned earlier, the energy density of a battery is much higher than that of a super capacitor.

This means that they are more suitable for applications with higher energy density and allow the equipment to run longer. The power density of supercapacitors is much higher than that of batteries. This makes them ideal for high-power applications, such as accelerating power for automobiles.

The life of supercapacitors is much longer than batteries. A typical battery can maintain 2000-3000 full charge and discharge cycles, while a super capacitor can usually maintain more than 1 million times.

Supercapacitors are safer and less toxic. They do not contain harmful chemicals or heavy metals, nor are they as explosive as batteries.

Compared with batteries, supercapacitors have a larger working range. They easily beat the battery in this field and can work in the range of -40 to +65 degrees Celsius.

The charging and discharging speed of supercapacitors is much faster than that of batteries, usually only takes a few seconds. On the other hand, the charging speed of the battery is much slower (of course it depends on the size and type of the battery).

The self-discharge efficiency of supercapacitors is also much higher than that of batteries.

Compared with batteries, the shelf life of many supercapacitors is also much longer. For example, SkelCap industrial supercapacitors can be stored for up to 15 years at a time, with almost no decrease in capacity.

As with any technology, the main driving force for using them is cost-effectiveness. For applications that require short pulse energy, supercapacitors are a more economical option in the long run.

However, for applications that require sustained low current for long periods of time, batteries are a better choice.

Power Density of Supercapacitor and Batteries

Figure9. Power Density of Supercapacitor and Batteries

VIII Types of Supercapacitors

8.1 Carbon Electrode, Noble Metal Oxide Electrode and Conductive Polymer Electrode Capacitors

According to the electrode used, supercapacitors can be divided into the following three types:

8.1.1 Carbon electrode capacitor

Carbon electrode capacitors have a long history of research. In '62, standard oil (SOH IO) recognized the great value of double-layer capacitors on the surface of graphite electrodes in fuel cells and produced capacitors using carbon materials as electrodes with a working voltage of 6V. The capacitor is about the size of a car battery and can drive a boat across the lake for about ten minutes. The technology was later transferred to NEC Electric of Japan, which has been making supercapacitors since 1979 and applying the technology to motor start systems in electric cars, starting the large-scale commercial application of electrochemical capacitors. Meanwhile, Matsushita has designed a supercapacitor based on activated carbon as electrode material and organic solution as electrolyte.

The capacitance of carbon electrode capacitor is related to electrode polarization potential and electrode surface area, so the purpose of increasing capacitance can be achieved by increasing polarization potential and electrode surface area. The typical value of stored electric quantity on electrode P electrolyte double layer is about 15~40 F·. Cm-2. High capacitance can be obtained by selecting high dispersion electrode materials with high surface area.

For an ideal polarizable system, a large amount of energy can be stored by increasing the charging voltage indefinitely. However, the actual system is limited by the polarizability and solvent decomposition of the electrode system composed of electrode materials and electrolyte, and the capacitance value can be increased by increasing the electrode surface area. Capacitance C can be given by the following formula:

Formula

Where 0 is the absolute dielectric constant of free space, is the relative dielectric constant between the electric conductor and the inner Helmhotz plane, A is the surface area of the electrode, and D is the distance between the conductor and the inner Helmhotz plane. In recent years, researches mainly focus on improving the surface area of carbon materials and controlling the pore size and pore size distribution of carbon materials, and many different types of carbon materials have been developed, including activated carbon powder, activated carbon fiber, carbon aerogel and carbon nanotubes.

8.1.2 Noble metal oxide electrode capacitor

In the research of noble metal oxide electrode capacitor, RuO2, IrO2 and other noble metal oxides are mainly used as electrode materials. Because the electrode has better conductivity than the carbon electrode and is stable in sulfuric acid, higher specific energy can be obtained. The prepared capacitor has better performance than the carbon electrode capacitor, so it has a good development prospect. However, due to the limited resources of RuO2 precious metals, the high price limits its use. With RuO2·nH 2O amorphous hydrate as electrode and 5.3mol·L-1H2SO4 as electrolyte, the specific capacitance of the capacitor can reach 700F· G-1. The specific capacitance of the capacitor prepared by using amorphous hydrate MnO2·nH2O as the electrode and 2m ol· L-1KCl aqueous solution as the electrolyte can also reach 200F· G-1. However, because the material is relatively stable in neutral KCl aqueous solution and no chemical side reactions occur, KCl aqueous solution as the electrolyte is suitable for a variety of electrode materials. The research of using RuO2 as electrode material mainly focuses on the preparation method of electrode.

8.1.3 Conductive polymer electrode capacitor

As a new type of electrochemical capacitor, conductive polymer electrode capacitor has high performance and better electrical performance than noble metal supercapacitor. The structure of the polymer can be selected by design to further improve the performance of the polymer, thus improving the performance of the capacitor.

There are three types of conductive polymer electrode capacitors: symmetrical structures-P-doped conductive polymers (e.g., polythiophene) in which the two capacitors are very electrically identical; Asymmetric structure - two very different p-doped polymer materials (e.g., polypyrrole and polythiophene); Conductive polymers can be p-type and n-type doped, a charging capacitor electrode is n type doping state and the other electrode is p-type doping state, is to doping state after discharge, the conductive polymer electrode capacitors capacitance voltage to 3 v can be improved, and the two electrodes respectively n type doping and p-type doped polymer, capacitor during charge and discharge ion of Yin and Yang of the solution can be fully used, it has a similar battery discharge characteristics, therefore is considered to be one of the most promising electrochemical capacitor. The research work mainly focuses on the search for conductive polymers with excellent doping properties and the improvement of discharge performance, cycle life and thermal stability of polymer electrodes.

Types of Supercapacitors

Figure10. Types of Supercapacitors

8.2 Double Layer Capacitors and Faraday Quasi-capacitors

According to the mechanism of energy storage, supercapacitors can be divided into the following two types:

(1) One is the "double-layer capacitor", whose capacitance is mainly based on the double-layer capacitance generated by the charge separation on the electrode P electrolyte, such as the carbon electrode capacitor

(2) the other is called "the Faraday capacitor", composed of precious metal and precious metal oxide electrode, the generation of the capacitor is based on electroactive ions owe potential deposition in precious metal electrode surface, or in the precious metal oxide electrode surface and the body of the REDOX reaction of adsorption capacity, the capacity of generating mechanism and electric double layer capacitor is different, with the charge transfer process, usually has more than capacitance.

8.3 Symmetric and Asymmetric Supercapacitors

According to the structure of the supercapacitor and the reaction on the electrode, it can be divided into the following two types:

(1) If the two electrodes are of the same composition and react in the same direction, they are said to be symmetrical. Double layer capacitors with carbon electrodes and noble metal oxide capacitors are symmetrical capacitors.

(2) If the two electrodes have different components or different reactions, they are called asymmetric type. The capacitor with N-type and P-type doped conductive polymer as the electrode is asymmetric type, and its performance is closer to that of the battery, showing higher specific energy and power.

8.4 Aqueous and Organic Solution Supercapacitors

According to the electrolyte of the supercapacitor, it can be divided into the following two types:

The maximum available voltage of the supercapacitor is determined by the decomposition voltage of the electrolyte. The electrolyte can be an aqueous solution (such as a strong acid or a strong base) or an organic solution (such as a protic solvent solution of salt). In aqueous solution system can obtain high capacity and high power (because of the aqueous electrolyte resistance was lower than those of non aqueous electrolyte, the aqueous electrolyte conductance of 10 1 ~ 10 cm - 1-2 s., rather than the aqueous system electric guideline for 10-3 ~ 10-4 s. cm - 1) choose organic solution system can obtain high voltage (because of its voltage higher than aqueous electrolyte decomposition, decomposition of organic solution voltage is about 3.5 V, 1.2 V) aqueous solution, which can obtain high specific energy.

IX One Frequently Asked Question about Supercapacitor

Can supercapacitors play a significant role in the future of energy storage?

Ultracapacitors’ high power density, extremely long operational life and reliable performance in

extreme temperatures give system designers the ability to better satisfy the power requirements of

a wide range of demanding applications. With millions of cells and multi-cell modules already

powering applications in cars, public transit and other heavy vehicles, wind energy and other

industrial applications, ultracapacitors can be expected to play an even more prominent role in the

years ahead.

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