Scientists from Imperial College London and University College London (UCL) have used lignin to create a new generation of low-cost, high-energy supercapacitors to power electric vehicles.

The cheaper, more sustainable and energy-dense electrode material could pave the way for wider market penetration of this high-power, quick charging electric vehicle technology.

In the study, published in Advanced Science, teams at Imperial College London and used lignin – a bio-based by-product of the paper industry – to create free-standing electrodes with enhanced energy storage capacity.

The researchers believe this could be a game-changer for existing supercapacitor technology and emphasise the importance of reducing the production cost of carbon-based electrodes and the reliance on critical materials if free-standing supercapacitors are to play a major role in decarbonising transport alongside batteries and fuel cells.

With lignin in place of graphene-based carbon, the team produced a freestanding structure which is said to be lighter and smaller than current models without compromising energy storage capacity. This makes them ideal for use in short-distance electric vehicles like buses, taxis and trams where they have the capacity to charge in the time it takes for passengers to exit and enter a vehicle.

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