Supercap flat-pack

Wearable Health Tech devices need power, and in almost all cases, this comes from stored electricity. Chemical batteries are still the technology of choice, but the search is on in earnest for better solutions. One enticing area of exploration is the supercapacitor — or supercap — which like a battery has the ability to store large amounts of electricity in a small volume. One big difference from a battery, however, is that supercaps can discharge quickly if needed, and just as quickly recharge again.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia have come up with a possible breakthrough for supercaps. A group in the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) have created a flexible, wafer-thin supercap technology that can be rolled or folded. They used just three materials: graphene, carbon nanotubes, and a conductive polymer. The important point of their discovery is that they have found a way to make these materials self-assembling. Unless it is done correctly, the mixture results in a lumpy mess or a sheet that is too weak to be durable. They have developed a process that naturally prevents the graphene layers from clumping, creating a thin film that is flexible and strong. These can then be stacked like a layer cake to store a large amount of electricity. The device can be charged in seconds.

Supercaps have the potential to make all sorts of wearable Health Tech devices more practical. Lightweight and flexible, they can last longer without recharging, and recharging will be much faster than with batteries. This means that products will be more convenient to use, making them easier to adopt by end users.