March 2, 2009

Recycled newspapers store electricity

Give used newspapers a bath in the right chemicals and you get a green twofer: cheap ultracapacitor electrodes for storing electricity and a new use for recycled newspaper.

Putting used newspaper in a solution of potassium hydroxide yields highly porous, or activated, carbon that works as an ultracapacitor electrode. The carbon material has a surface area of 416 square meters per gram, which is close to the surface area of commercially available activated carbon.

The waste paper carbon stores 180 farads of electrical charge per gram. Commercial activated carbons typically store 100 to 300 farads per gram depending on electrolyte type and voltage level.

Inexpensive precursor materials for activated carbon promise to reduce the cost of ultracapacitors. Lower-cost ultracapacitors, in turn, promise to reduce the cost of hybrid and electric vehicles, and make it more practical to store electricity generated by renewable but intermittent sources like wind turbines and solar cells.

Research paper:
Recycled Waste Paper—A New Source of Raw Material for Electric Double-Layer Capacitors
Journal of Power Sources, published online January 30, 2009

Researcher's homepage:
Yun-Sung Lee

Related stories and briefs:
Nanotube-carbon paper combo promises light batteries -- related research

Back to ERN March 9, 2009



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