Supercapacitors: What are They and What Makes Them Super?

Supercapacitors: What are They and What Makes Them Super?

Supercapacitors… we hear about them a lot!

Our hybrid vehicles race in their supremacy. Our wind turbines rotate in their smoothness. Our portable speakers oscillate in quick jolts of their power. Even our digital cameras flash in their super charging times.

But what exactly are super capacitors?

What actually makes them super?

How are they different from ordinary capacitors?

This piece will introduce you to the basics of supercapacitors explaining every fundamental aspect of their design and technology.

What are super capacitors?

Simply put, super capacitors are capacitors with high capacitance values—much higher than your normal capacitors!

They have two metal plates, just like an ordinary capacitor; however, the area of these plates is much bigger while the distance between them is smaller.

What makes the area of these plates bigger?

It’s the design of the plates.

Basically, super capacitor plates are coated with a porous substance such as charcoal. This coating helps the plates store more charge on them.

How, you ask?

Think of electricity as water for a moment and an ordinary capacitor as a piece of cloth. How much water can you mop up with the cloth if it spills on the floor?

Not much.

Now imagine instead of cloth, you’ve a chunky sponge. Using the sponge, you’re likely to soak up more water—isn’t it?

Well, the coating on your super capacitor plates make them porous and make them act like a chunky sponge.

And that’s how they get a bigger area for storing charge.

Besides having plates with bigger area and smaller distance, super capacitors also differ from ordinary capacitors in that they don’t use a solid (or gaseous) dielectric medium.

Then what do they use?

They use an electrolyte; plates of super capacitors are soaked in an electrolyte. By varying the composition and quality of electrolyte, you can vary the energy density of super capacitors.

Combine these three design differences between supercapacitors and ordinary capacitors, and you realize why the former has much higher capacitance and energy density. These design differences are what make supercapacitors “super” and charge-rich.

However, the energy density of currently available super capacitors is still much lower as compared to what lithium batteries offer. Much research is being put into this area for further improvement and we can expect super capacitors to be competing soon with lithium batteries in terms of energy density—they may outdo them as well.

Where does we come into all this?

As one of the largest producers and suppliers of supercapacitor electrolytes, Watson International offers a growing list of high quality electrolyte products. Our products are formulated to help you design super capacitors with high energy densities and capacitances.

For more details, please call +1 (909)345 0760-31 or contact us by filling our online contact form.