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Hemp Could Yield Cheap Nanomaterials for Supercapacitors

Hemp Could Yield Cheap Nanomaterials for Supercapacitors

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/61138856@N02/

Next generation energy storage may come from supercapacitors, devices that can not only store large amounts of energy, but can also both receive and deliver a charge quickly.

One of the ‘wonder’ materials used for developing them is graphene, which can be difficult and expensive to make, but one group of researchers may have found a replacement that can be made from agricultural waste, specifically fibers from the hemp plant.

Research at the University of Alberta into using plant waste materials as feedstock for commercial products has turned out a “graphene-like” nanomaterial that can function as electrodes in supercapacitors. The team found that a layer of the plant called the bast, which is usually discarded in industrial hemp operations, can be treated and processed into thin, porous nanosheets for use as electrodes in supercapacitors.

“Hemp bast is a nanocomposite made up of layers of lignin, hemicellulose, and crystalline cellulose. If you process it the right way, it separates into nanosheets similar to graphene.” – University of Alberta chemical engineer David Mitlin

A supercapacitor using the hemp-based nanosheets and an electrolyte solution was built by the team, and early results found that it has three times the energy density as the activated carbon currently used in commercial supercapacitors.

The research paper, Interconnected Carbon Nanosheets Derived from Hemp for Ultrafast Supercapacitors with High Energy, stated that “This novel precursor-synthesis route presents a great potential for facile large-scale production of high-performance carbons for a variety of diverse applications including energy storage.”

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