Mr Warren Baldsing undertakes supercapacitor testing in an energy storage laboratory.

CSIRO's Mr Warren Baldsing monitors the charge and discharge performance of an asymmetric supercapacitor test cell.

Supercapacitors: powerful mobile energy storage devices

CSIRO's supercapacitor team have led the world in developing a new device for storing electrical energy and received a 2004 CSIRO Medal for their research work.

  • 31 May 2005 | Updated 14 October 2011

Clean, green, stored energy solutions to reduce greenhouse emissions and speed the transition to a hydrogen economy.

That’s the aim of this Energy Transformed Flagship project.

With modern life is becoming increasingly mobile and dependent on portable power units, the average person in an industrialised country now consumes 35 batteries a year.

The energy storage group is a world leader in designing technologies to deliver safer, lighter, more powerful and longer lasting mobile energy storage devices.

Supercapacitors – what are they?

A supercapacitor is an electrochemical capacitor that offers very high capacitance in a small package.

They are able to store a large amount of charge (energy) that can be released very quickly. This means they are superior in short term, high-energy applications, such as when an appliance is switched on or an electric car accelerates.

Supercapacitors offer many benefits:

The global market for portable rechargeable batteries is rapidly expanding, with a 17 per cent increase to US$4.5 billion in 2003.
  • they can be recharged very quickly (in a matter of seconds)
  • when fitted alongside a battery can extend battery life by up to five times by 'levelling out' high power demands on the battery (load levelling)
  • they can be manufactured in any size and shape
  • they can be retrofitted onto existing designs
  • the devices are generally made from low-toxicity materials.

Supercapacitors allow manufacturers to use smaller, lighter and cheaper batteries. This replaces the current, inefficient practice of fitting oversize batteries to cope with sudden surges in power.

Supercapacitors have superior recyclability. They can allow greater than 500 000 recharge cycles, compared to approximately 1 000 for rechargeable batteries, before there is a noticeable deterioration in capacity.

Super commercial potential

Australia has become a world leader in supercapacitor technology through a research program initiated by CSIRO’s Energy Storage Group in early 1992. 

CSIRO has worked closely with Plessey Ducon Pty Ltd and later start-up company cap-XX Pty Ltd to first develop and then commercialise the world’s most advanced high-power, small-form factor supercapacitors.

The partnership has developed high-technology supercapacitors that are used in low-emission, fuel-efficient car designs such as the aXcessaustralia LEV, and the ECOmmodore.

Other typical supercapacitor applications include:

  • hybrid-electric vehicles
  • in notebook computers
  • industrial actuators and controls
  • uninterruptible power supplies and power quality devices
  • automotive auxiliary systems and engine starting
  • two-way pagers, cellular phones and other wireless communications devices
  • digital cameras, power tools, etc
  • motive and standby power.

Partners

Collaboration between CSIRO Divisions on supercapacitor research brings together relevant research capabilities and skills from:

  • Energy Technology
  • Molecular Science
  • Manufacturing and Infrastructure Technology
  • Textile and Fibre Technology.

We are also working with the University of Newcastle on new manganese and lithium based electrode materials.

Find out more about Energy Storage.