Thermally Chargeable Supercapacitor: Utilizing Thermally-Driven Ion Transport
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The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a novel simultaneous energy harvesting and storage system that utilizes typically wasted low-grade heat such as human body heat so that wearable and portable electronics can be powered without electrical charging from an external power outlet. This project investigates the key mechanisms for controlling ion transport under temperature gradients so as to simultaneously harvest and store electrical energy. The essence of this study is to understand how ions transport under temperature gradients, which has broader impacts on other fields including biotechnology, microfluidics, and fuel cells for controlling reactions and flow directions. Simplified core knowledge for educating students and general audience through lab experience and broadcasting could provide inspiration for other related technologies. Understanding the key mechanisms in remarkably increasing thermopower is directly tied to the generated voltage to a level that actual wearable electronics can be operated. In particular, this project investigates plasticizer-dependent thermally-induced ion transport in solid-state ionic conductors. The plasticizer not only loosens the mobile ions from the counter ions tethered to the long backbone of the polymer, but also significantly affects ion transport under temperature gradients. Nevertheless these aspects have barely been studied and understood. This project mainly studies the thermal diffusion direction of ions and plasticizers, the role of plasticizers in promoting the thermal diffusion of ions, and the capacitance effect from the plasticizers. Based on the knowledge gained through the fundamental studies, optimally designed thermally chargeable supercapacitors are to be developed and tested. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.