We have extolled the wonders of graphene here before; there seems to be no end of what these single-atom-thick sheets of carbon can do. And now comes word from MIT of a new development that expands the potential of this miracle material even further. Carbon is an excellent electrical conductor, and graphene sheets have already been shown to work well as “supercapacitors” to store electricity. Take two layers separated by an insulator, and presto! You have a very compact energy storage device. Supercaps have two major advantages over chemical batteries; they can discharge their stored electricity very quickly if needed, but perhaps more important is the fact that they can be charged just as fast.
Scientists at MIT have discovered that if you place a layer of graphene on a sheet of stretched plastic polymer film, and relax the film, you get a sheet of graphene that is crumpled, much like a sheet of paper. Furthermore, you can place two layers of graphene — separated by an insulating hydrogel layer — on the stretched film, you get crumpled layers that stay in contact with each other, even when bent or stretched. In other words, you get a lightweight, stretchable electrical storage device.
Pair this with an energy source, such as energy harvesting devices or some wireless energy transfer system, and you’ve got a device that can store and release electricity to power anything from a biosensor to a full-body network. And it can be bent or stretched without affecting its performance. We could have artificial skin that incorporates photovoltaic conversion of light to electricity with a way to store that power until it’s needed. The possibilities for wearable Health Tech devices is nearly endless.