Last year, researchers at UCLA made a rather fantastic, if serendipitous, discovery.
A team of scientists led by chemist Richard Kaner had just finished devising an efficient method for producing high-quality sheets of the Nobel-prize winning supermaterial known as graphene... with a consumer-grade DVD drive.
That was groundbreaking in and of itself, but the real surprise came when Maher El-Kady, a researcher in Kaner's lab, wired a small square of their high quality carbon sheets up to a lightbulb. Then something incredible happened.
As the video above explains, Kaner and El-Kady had stumbled upon an energy storage medium with revolutionary potential. Imagine filling your smart phone with a long-lasting charge in just a couple seconds, or an electric car in a minute.
Future applications, first described in a March 2012 issue of Science (Laser Scribing of High-Performance and Flexible Graphene-Based Electrochemical Capacitors), looked very promising.
Fast forward one year, and Kaner and El-Kady are even closer to realizing a tomorrow rich with supercapacitor technology.
In a paper published in a recent issue of Nature Communications (Scalable fabrication of high-power graphene micro-supercapacitors for flexible and on-chip energy storage), the researchers report that El-Kady's original fabrication process (highlighted in the video) can be made even more efficient. More efficient production of high quality graphene means it's scalable.
And scalability, of course, can lead to manufacturing and wide-scale technological implementation.
As the researchers note in the abstract to their paper:
The upshot? The supercapacitors that Kaner and El-Kady are producing with freaking DVD burners could find their way into consumer tech way sooner than many might have originally guessed.
(While minute-charge electric cars may still be a ways off, the fact these sheets are as unobtrusive and flexible as they are bodes well for their incorporation into plenty of near-future technologies - roll-up displays, for instance, or e-paper.)
According to Kaner, his lab is already courting partners in industry. Color us excited...