In the near future, we might have electronic devices made entirely out of paper–with paper displays, paper transistors, and even paper supercapacitors. Researchers at Stanford University have developed the first paper supercapacitor by printing carbon nanotubes onto paper. Similar paper supercapacitors can be printed on everything from grocery ads to Xerox paper.
Stanford researchers developed the supercapacitor by coating both sides of a piece of paper with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), causing it to function as an electrolyte separator and membrane. The treated paper allows the supercapacitor, made entirely out of single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), to bond to the paper — much like ink from a pen bonds to paper. It works well, too — the device loses minimal capacitance after 2500 charge-discharge cycles.
Most importantly, the development of paper supercapacitors could usher in an era where we can simply toss small electronic devices in the recycling bin when we’re done with them–no need to hunt for electronics recycling centers. Because the easier it is to recycle, the less likely it is that electronics will end up in our landfills.