A supercapacitor or an ultracapacitor, is a high-capacity electrochemical capacitor with capacitance values as large as thousand farads. Supercapacitors combines the properties of traditional batteries and capacitor in a single component.
Supercapacitors find their usage in applications requiring rapid charge/discharge time rather than long term energy storage. They are used for regenerative braking, burst-mode power delivery or short-term energy storage within trains, cranes, cars, buses, elevators and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). Smaller units of supercapacitors are utilized as memory backup for static random-access memory (SRAM). Additionally, supercapacitors are also used in applications involving solar power, batteries, battery back-up, and flash-lights.
A supercapacitor differs from the normal capacitor in two basic ways: the plates of a supercapacitor have a larger surface area and the distance between them is much smaller, as compared to the conventional capacitors. The separator between these plates works in a different way than the conventional dielectric. A supercapacitor act like an ordinary capacitor, however, it can store extremely large amounts of energy. Capacitors used in audio circuits have capacitances in the ranges of 470 or 680 micro farads and those used in RF applications are as small as 1 pico farad. In contrast to this, a normal supercapacitor can store a charge upto several thousand farads.
Although, the large amount of charge represents only a small fraction of the electrical energy that can be stored into a battery, its ability to charge and discharge instantaneously as compared to other lithium-ion and lithium polymer battery offers it a competitive edge. . This is because a supercapacitor builds up static electric charges on solids, while a conventional battery charges slowly through chemical reactions.
With the up surging demand of the storage systems used in wide range of devices, there is a dire need of product research developments which would store large charge and at the same time charges quickly. Currently, supercapacitors are also used along with conventional batteries, with the characteristics which are different in behavior and performance from the conventional batteries in order to meet technical and economic aspects of various applications. Major adoption of supercapacitors has been witnessed in the developed economies such as U.S, Germany, South Korea and Japan.
Supercapacitors are mainly classified on the basis of type of materials, applications, technology and geography.
On the basis of materials: Electrodes, Electrolytes, Separators. Electrodes are further sub-segmented into: electrolyte double layer capacitor (ELDC), Pseudo capacitor, and hybrid capacitor materials. Electrolytes are subdivided into: aqueous electrolyte and organic electrolyte. Separators are subdivided into: polymeric film, poly acrylonitrile (PAN) and kapton. By applications: Consumer electronics (Laptops, Digital Cameras, Portable Speakers and Mobile Computing ), Industrial automation (Memory Storage, Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and Automatic Meter Reading), Power & Energy (Actuators, Wind Turbines and Photovoltaic), Medical (Defibrillators), Transport (Trains, cranes, cars, buses, elevators, aircrafts and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV)); By technology: Organic Electrolyte Super Capacitor, Aqueous Electrolyte Super Capacitor.
Revolution in the storage technology with the introduction of new market segments such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEV), smart grids, and renewable energy systems, and capability of supercapacitors to provide emergency shutdown power or backup to low-power equipment such as RAM, SRAM, micro-controllers and PC Cards are driving its adoption globally. Additionally, supercapacitors has higher life period than conventional batteries. Increasing demand for stabilized power supply in applications with fluctuating loads, such as laptop computers, GPS, portable media players, hand-held devices is also one of the factors contributing to the market growth.
However, factors such as high cost, customer traditionalism and competition from the established high capacity batteries vendors is restraining the market growth. As supercapacitors act as a substitute to lithium-ion and lithium polymer batteries, major players dealing with lithium-ion and lithium polymer are expected to exploit the socio-economic political scenario to curb the adoption of supercapacitors in the near future.
The leading players in the industry includes Advanced Capacitor Technologies, Inc., Axion Power International, Inc., CAP-XX Ltd., EEStor Corporation, ELTON, Inc., FastCAP Systems, Inc., Graphene Energy, Inc., Maxwell Technologies, Inc., and Nesscap Energy, Inc.
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