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Keywords:

  • electrochemistry;
  • energy transfer;
  • environmental chemistry;
  • green chemistry;
  • waste prevention

Abstract

Owing to recent power- and energy-density advances, higher efficiencies, and almost unlimited lifetimes, electrical double-layer capacitors (EDLCs, also known as supercapacitors) are now used in a wide range of energy harvesting and storage systems, which include portable power and grid applications. Despite offering key performance advantages, many device components pose significant environmental hazards once disposed. They often contain fluorine, sulfur, and cyanide groups, which are harmful if discarded by using conventional landfill or incineration methods, and they are constructed by using multiple metallic parts, which contribute to a high ash content. We explore designs for a fully operational supercapacitor that incorporates materials completely safe to dispose of and easy to incinerate. The components, which include material alternatives for the current collector, electrolyte, separator, particle binder, and packaging, are all mutually compatible, and most of them exhibit better performance than commonly used materials. We selected a graphite foil as current collector, sodium acetate as electrolyte, an ester as porous membrane based on acetate cellulose, and polymers based on polyvinyl alcohol as environmentally benign solutions for device components. The presented materials all originate from simple and inexpensive source compounds, which decreases the environmental impact of their manufacture and renders them more viable for integration into commercial devices for large-scale stationary and transportation energy storage applications.