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Patent of the Month – Fabric Supercapacitor

Patent of the Month –  Fabric Supercapacitor

| On 14, Jul 2019

Darrell Mann

Our patent of the month this month takes us to Austin, and a trio of inventors at the University of Texas. US10,199,180 was granted on February 5. Here’s what the background description has to say about the problem being solved:

The development of improved energy storage devices is one of the keys for successful global energy management. However, one challenge is the improvement of transportable energy in applications such as wearable energy. Many research efforts focus on either directly overlaying conventional batteries onto existing textiles or coating energy storage materials on fabrics. Such approaches face tremendous difficulties in connections, bulkiness, wearability, and safety. An emerging tactic is to directly incorporate energy storage materials, as supercapacitors, at the formation stages of textile fibers. Supercapacitors, like batteries, can store energy and be used as a power source. While batteries store and release charge through chemical reactions, supercapacitors store it on the surface of their electrodes. Thus, supercapacitors can charge in minutes instead of hours and can recharge millions of times. Multiple textile fibers can be spun into energy storage yarns which can be further fabricated into energy storage fabrics. Fiber supercapacitors, however, have limited dimensions and these devices can present challenges during the weaving process. There have been some studies on fabric electrode supercapacitors. However, these supercapacitors exhibited some practical limitations such as being relatively thick, which affects their flexibility. There is still a need for more lightweight, compact, and mechanically flexible energy storage devices. The compositions and methods disclosed herein address these and other needs in the art.

From a contradiction perspective, the primary aim is to store energy, but this is prevented, conventionally, by material thickness, weight and the consequent loss of flexibility. Here’s what that little lot looks like when mapped on to the Contradiction Matrix:

And here’s how the invention tackles the problem:

A fabric supercapacitor comprising: (a) an ion permeable separator layer having two opposed surfaces; (b) two electrode layers disposed on the opposed surfaces of the ion permeable separator layer, wherein each of the electrode layers comprise an activated carbon fiber fabric comprising a precursor fabric which has been carbonized, activated, and coated with an electrolyte; and (c) two conducting layers disposed on outer surfaces of the two electrode layers and opposite the ion permeable separator layer, wherein each conducting layers comprise a non-activated carbon fiber fabric.

…which looks a lot like a couple of big dollops of Principle 3, Local Quality, some 17 (Another Dimension), a touch of 31, Holes (‘ion permeable… layer’) and maybe some 35, Parameter Change thrown in for good measure. Plus, I suppose the whole thing is about fields, so Principle 28, Mechanics Substitution ought to be mixed in there too. Simple when you know how.