Finding ways to store clean energy is one of the largest challenges green entrepreneurs and innovators face today. A team led by MIT researchers developed a new supercapacitor that could revolutionize the way electric vehicles, for example, store power. The MIT supercapacitor, made without conducive carbon, even has the potential to “deliver more power.”

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Past supercapacitors were all made with carbon, which required “high temperatures and harsh chemicals to produce,” according to MIT News. The main innovation by the team of five MIT scientists and one Argonne National Laboratory scientist is the use of new materials, metal organic frameworks (MOFs). It was thought MOFs couldn’t conduct electricity, but the team discovered “highly electrically conducive MOFs” in the lab.

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MOFs that can conduct electricity are beneficial for supercapacitors because they have an “extraordinarily large surface area for their size,” more than carbon materials possess. As supercapacitor performance is dependent on surface area, electrically conducive MOFs could be the perfect material to utilize in such devices. Plus, MOFs “can be made under much less harsh conditions” than carbon.

This research is important because it could allow electric vehicles, for example, to be even more environmentally friendly and receive more power. The MIT team says their supercapacitors could also be used for grid-scale storage and “could play an important role in making renewable energy sources practical for widespread deployment.”

The MIT supercapacitors stand up well against existing capacitors in several areas, such as how many “charge/discharge cycles” they can go through: they lost not even 10 percent performance “after 10,000 cycles,” a statistic similar to existing supercapacitors. The journal Nature Materials published the team’s research online this week.

Chemistry professor at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium described the MIT research as “very significant, from both a scientific and applications point of view.”

MOFs have many other potential applications, such as in self-shading windows.

Via MIT News and ZDNet

Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and Paul Wilkinson on Flickr