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Research - Supercapacitors

Supercapacitors (also known as electrochemical capacitors or ultracapacitors) play an increasingly important role in a variety of high power and high reliability applications, providing energy storage for the public transportation sector (such as electric buses), regenerative braking energy capture in passenger vehicles, emergency aircraft back-up power supplies, medical defibrillators and wind turbine pitch control. Supercapacitors offer a higher specific energy than traditional electrolytic capacitors, with higher power densities and cycle lives relative to standard battery technologies. They are well suited for wide temperature operations where long cycle life is required, and JPL has pioneered the development of this technology for extreme environment applications.

Efforts at JPL encompass the full gamut of research and development activities, including materials development (in particular electrode and electrolyte materials), cell prototyping in coin, pouch and cylindrical formats, evaluation of both prototype and commercial available cells under relevant NASA conditions and ultimately infusion into flight. JPL regularly partners with external collaborators to further the technology for unique applications not met by existing options.

Supercapacitor/Battery hybrid power supply for Cubesats (left), Thermal Vacuum testbed for evaluating supercapacitors for space environments (center) and prototype supercapacitor test cells designed for wide temperature operation (right).