Researchers at the University of Central Florida are hoping to develop a cell phone battery that could be charged 30,000 times without degrading. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Researchers at the University of Central Florida want to make sure you never get caught out with a cell phone battery nearing death.

The team of UCF scientists has developed a new process for creating supercapacitors that can be used for mobile phones and electric vehicles that can store more energy and be recharged more than 30,000 times without degrading.

“If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” Nitin Choudhary, a postdoctoral associate who conducted much of the research for UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, said in a statement.

The battery on a smartphone generally holds a charge for less and less time after about 18 months as the battery begins to degrade.

This has led to a recent push to study the use of nanomaterials to improve supercapacitors that could enhance or even replace batteries in electronic devices. However, research has stalled because a supercapacitor would have to be much larger to hold as much energy as a lithium-ion battery.

This led to the UCF scientists experimenting with applying newly discovered two-dimensional materials only a few atoms thick to supercapacitors.

“There have been problems in the way people incorporate these two-dimensional materials into the existing systems—that’s been a bottleneck in the field,” principal investigator Yeonwoong “Eric” Jung, an assistant professor with joint appointments to the NanoScience Technology Center and the Materials Science & Engineering Department, said in a statement. “We developed a simple chemical synthesis approach so we can very nicely integrate the existing materials with the two-dimensional materials.”

The supercapacitors developed at UCF are composed of millions of nanometer-thick wires coated with shells of two-dimensional materials.

Having a highly conductive core facilitates fast electron transfer for fast charging and discharging and uniformly coated shells of two-dimensional materials yield high energy and power densities.

It was previously proven that two-dimensional materials held great promise for energy storage applications. However, the UCF scientists were able to integrate those materials.

“For small electronic devices, our materials are surpassing the conventional ones worldwide in terms of energy density, power density and cyclic stability,” Choudhary said.

The number of times a battery can be charged, drained and recharged before beginning to degrade is called cyclic stability. A lithium-ion battery can be recharged fewer than 1,500 times without significant failure, but the new process developed by UCF yields a supercapacitor that doesn’t degrade even after it’s been recharged 30,000 times.

If the supercapacitor is developed on a commercial level it could be used in phones and other electronic devices, as well as electric vehicles. The technology could also mean an advancement in wearable technology because of its flexibility.

“It’s not ready for commercialization,” Jung added. “But this is a proof-of-concept demonstration, and our studies show there are very high impacts for many technologies.”

In addition to Choudhary and Jung, the research team included Chao Li, Julian Moore and Associate Professor Jayan Thomas, all of the UCF NanoScience Technology Center; and Hee-Suk Chung of Korea Basic Science Institute in Jeonju, South Korea.

UCF’s Office of Technology Transfer is working with the science team to patent the new process.

The study, which was published in ACS Nano, can be viewed here.