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Leveraging KBSI’s Nanotechnology Expertise, Student Develops Innovative Energy Storage Device

Masdar Institute mechanical engineering Master’s student Ivan Lopez has returned from the Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI), where he spent a month at the leading Korean science and technology institute developing advanced supercapacitors – a type of energy storage device that can be charged and discharged very quickly, making them particularly attractive for energy storage applications.

Lopez traveled to Korea with a focus on studying supercapacitors, while leveraging KBSI’s expertise in nanoparticles. During his experience, he ultimately developed a novel nanoparticle-coated electrode material that improves supercapacitors’ energy storage capacity, while also learning how to fabricate flexible supercapacitors, test their performance, and analyze their results.

Leveraging the research expertise of scientists at KBSI who were developing wearable electronics, Lopez gained keen insights that he applied towards producing practical, wearable supercapacitors.

“Many of KBSI’s researchers were studying wearable materials for electronic devices, which presented me with a unique opportunity; we decided to develop wearable and flexible supercapacitors using the same carbon-based nanomaterials that KBSI researchers were using in their wearable materials,” Lopez said.

Lopez modified the nanomaterials engineered by KBSI researchers, which lead to a novel process for developing carbon-based electrodes coated with an even distribution of metal-oxide nanoparticles. These electrodes were used in the wearable supercapacitors he developed.

He also analyzed and characterized the modified material with a scanning electron microscope (SEM) – a type of electron microscope that produces images by scanning it with a beam of electrons – and performed an x-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis to investigate crystalline material structure. Ultimately, the coating showed positive results of improved performance of the supercapacitor.

While at KBSI, Lopez was also introduced to Dr. Ho Seok Park, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Sungkyunkwan University, who shared his supercapacitor expertise and lab with Lopez.  There, Lopez learned how to assemble flexible supercapacitors, including how to make electrolyte materials, test the supercapacitor, and analyze the results.

“Dr. Park’s PhD students were experts in the assembly and test of supercapacitors. With them, I learned everything I needed to develop supercapacitors by myself. With this knowledge, I developed six supercapacitors with different configurations and architectures,” Lopez said.

The research Lopez started at KBSI will significantly support his Master’s thesis work at Masdar Institute and may lead to research publications in the future.

Lopez credits the robust collaborative environment at KBSI with advancing his ability to develop novel supercapacitor electrode materials and fabricate supercapacitors of his own.

“The expertise that the scientists at KBSI and Dr. Park’s lab shared with me were critical to the successful development of my supercapacitors,” Lopez shared.

He also added: “This experience was just a scratch at the surface; it opened my eyes to the fact that there is a lot more work to do and a lot left to be studied to get closer to creating a more efficient supercapacitor. This experience was just training for me to be able to study supercapacitors with higher power and energy densities at Masdar Institute.”

Lopez’s research experience followed on the research collaboration agreement that Masdar Institute and KBSI established earlier this year to jointly study cutting-edge research in energy storage systems and nanotechnology.

As academia and industry work to develop more affordable and effective ways to store energy, the energy storage industry is expected to grow leaps and bounds in the coming years. Recognizing nanotechnology’s potential to significantly improve the performance of energy storage systems, the collaboration between Masdar Institute and KBSI aims to leverage expertise from both institutes to develop next-generation energy storage devices using the latest advancements in nanotechnology.

“Research collaborations like the one Masdar Institute has embarked upon with KBSI is not only crucial to developments in the field of advanced energy storage technologies – an industry expected to reach US$50 billion in five years – but it also fosters human capital development, directly supporting Abu Dhabi’s goal to build a knowledge-based economy,” said Dr. Saif AlMheiri, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Masdar Institute.

Dr. AlMheiri co-advises Lopez with Associate Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Dr. Rashid Abu Al-Rub, and is Masdar Institute’s principal contact for the collaboration. Together with Dr. Hae Jin Kim, Principal Researcher and KBSI’s principal contact for the collaboration, Dr. AlMheiri organized the month-long research experience.

Erica Solomon
News and Features Writer
15 September 2015

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