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Ultracapacitor Education

As the name suggests is a Ultracapacitor is a capacitor with large capacitance. It polarizes an electrolytic solution to store energy electro-statically. Though an electrochemical device, no electrochemical reactions are involved in its energy storage mechanism. This mechanism is highly reversible, and allows the Ultra capacitor to be charged and discharged hundreds of thousands of times, without any appreciable loss in its capacitance. Electrochemical DoubleLayer Capacitors (Ultracapacitor/Ultracaps/Super capacitor), with its short charging & discharging time, is ideally suited for the intermittent loads.

Starting with the introduction of 'Coin/Button Cells' in the '80s to the present mega-ultra-capacitor units, the industry has come a long way. In the '80s and '90s, manufacturing of Ultra-capacitors was primarily an art. With the advance in technology, automated assembly techniques have replaced the labour-intensive aspects of manufacturing. As a result, costs have decreased substantially.

What Is An Ultracapacitor?

Electric double-layer capacitors, also known as super-capacitors, are electrochemical capacitors that have an unusually high energy density when compared to common capacitors, typically several orders of magnitude greater than a high-capacity electrolytic capacitor.

The electric double-layer capacitor effect was first noticed in 1957 by General Electric engineers experimenting with devices using porous carbon electrode. It was believed that the energy was stored in the carbon pores and it exhibited "exceptionally high capacitance", although the mechanism was unknown at that time.

General Electric did not immediately follow up on this work, and the modern version of the devices was eventually developed by researchers at Standard Oil of Ohio in 1966, after they accidentally re-discovered the effect while working on experimental fuel cell designs. Their cell design used two layers of activated charcoal separated by a thin porous insulator, and this basic mechanical design remains the basis of most electric double-layer capacitors to this day. With advances made on both materials and manufacturing process, today Tecate Group PowerBurst® product show a superior advantage amongst all other ultracapacitors in the market.

Generally, capacitors are constructed with a dielectric placed between opposed electrodes, functioning as capacitors by accumulating charges in the dielectric material. In a conventional capacitor, energy is stored by the removal of charge carriers, typically electrons from one metal plate and depositing them on another. This charge separation creates a potential between the two plates, which can be harnessed in an external circuit. The total energy stored in this fashion is a combination of the number of charges stored and the potential between the plates. The former is essentially a function of size and the material properties of the plates, while the latter is limited by the dielectric breakdown between the plates. Various materials can be inserted between the plates to allow higher voltages to be stored, leading to higher energy densities for any given size. For example aluminum electrolytic and tantalum electrolytic capacitors, use an aluminum oxide film and a tantalum oxide film as the dielectric, respectively. In contrast, Electric Double Layer Capacitors do not have any dielectrics in general, but rather utilize the phenomena typically referred to as the electric double layer. In the double layer, the effective thickness of the “dielectric” is exceedingly thin, and because of the porous nature of the carbon the surface area is extremely high, which translates to a very high capacitance. Generally, when two different phases come in contact with each other, positive and negative charges are set in array at the boundary. At every interface an array of charged particles and induced charges exist. This array is known as Electric Double Layer. The high capacitance of an EDLC arises from the charge stored at the interface by changing electric field between anode and cathodes.

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