PI: Zheng Yao

Co-PI(s): Carlos Romero and Kai Landskron

University: Lehigh University

A supercapacitor (SC) uses an electric double layer to store electric energy between the electrode surface and the electrolyte. Compared with secondary batteries, SC have the advantages of higher power density, faster charge-discharge rate, longer cycle life, wider temperature range, and potentially negligible pollution to the environment. It has been widely used in mobile communications, new energy vehicles, portable devices, energy storage systems, and aerospace fields. According to a report published by Allied Market Research in July 2020, the global SC market generated $3.27 billion in 2019, and is estimated to reach $16.95 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate of 23.3% from 2020 to 2027. Rise in demand in automotive applications, renewable energy systems, and supportive government regulations drive the growth of the global SC market. However, high costs of raw materials and low awareness hinder the market growth. During the coronavirus pandemic, operational restrictions on manufacturing activities would occur due to raw materials shortage.

SC are mainly composed of polarized electrodes, an electrolyte, and a diaphragm. The electrode material is the core component of the SC, which plays a key role in the SC performance. Electrode materials are mainly composed of activated carbon, carbon nanotube, carbon aerogel, graphene, template carbon, etc. Activated carbon is prepared by pyrolysis and activation of carbonaceous materials such as wood, coal, and petroleum coke. It is an ideal material for preparing SC due to its developed pore structure, large specific surface area, abundant surface chemical groups, specific adsorption capacity, low price, and abundant sources.

With the recent decline in coal markets, anthracite coal producers have been exploring alternative market opportunities for their coal production. Blaschak Coal Corporation (Blaschak) mines Pennsylvania anthracite coal and is actively searching avenues and new markets for its products. A review of anthracites has indicated the potential of this coal rank to be an efficient electrode source material for supercapacitor applications, comparable to commercially activated carbon from other raw materials. Blaschak desires to use these characterization results as the basis for selection of raw anthracite to be used for multi-stage activation and for SC applications.

Lehigh University and Blaschak intend to carry out a project under PITA’s funding to investigate the feasibility and performance of activated PA anthracite for SC applications in a way that is superior in performance compared with commercially available products. Results from this study will be presented to evaluate the performance (in terms of the contact angle, galvanostatic charge-discharge, and cyclovoltammetry test performance) of the multi-stage activated PA anthracite-based electrode, in comparison to a benchmark product commonly used by the industry. A report will be prepared summarizing the methods, equipment, and procedures used, as well as the test results and a discussion on the assessment and potential of a larger scale test.