IIT-H researchers use corn husks to make carbon electrodes for high-voltage supercapacitors
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HYDERABAD: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad (IIT-H) have developed a simple and inexpensive method to derive material from Cornhusk activated carbon electrodes for high-voltage supercapacitors. The electrode showed better electrochemical performance (high energy density and high power density) compared to conventional supercapacitors.

Carbon-based electrodes play a crucial role in the development of energy storage. This development is important for India, especially for countries like Uttar Pradesh, the combined states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which are the country’s first and second largest corn producers. They produce a large amount of corn husk waste, much of which is currently being incinerated because the potential for conversion into valuable electrode material is not being used due to a lack of awareness, expertise and technology.

IIT-H’s research into affordable and efficient methods can make this transition possible, which would trigger the cascade of additional earning opportunities for corn farmers and the provision of a sustainable energy source.

The research paper is described in detail under the direction of Atul Suresh Deshpande, associate professor, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, IIT-H, in collaboration with TN Rao, Deputy Director of the International Advanced Research Center for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad Synthetic processes and the electrochemical performance of the manufactured material were recently published in the renowned, expert-reviewed Journal of Power Sources.

Carbon based electrodes are typically derived from expensive high purity precursors such as polymers, organic precursors and high purity gases using various methods. The production of carbon electrodes from biomass is a simple and uncomplicated process. In collaboration with ARCI (Hyderabad), the IIT Hyderabad team has developed activated carbon electrodes from simple materials – corn husk and KOH.

“Activated carbon electrode material with porous layered morphology was made using corn husk through carbonization and subsequent KOH activation. Because of the inexpensive precursors and the simple processing method, this activated carbon manufacturing process can easily be adapted for large-scale commercial production, ”said Deshpande.

In order to obtain the activated carbon with a large surface area and porous layer-like morphology from corn husks, the researchers added KOH as an activating agent. KOH helps in the formation of a leaf-like morphology. The synergy of morphology and high specific surface area (1378 m2 g-1) improves the storage capacity of the activated carbon electrode material.

The storage capacity of activated carbon samples that were tested using a high operating voltage electrolyte (1 M tetraethylammonium tetrafluoroborate (TEABF4) in acetonitrile (AN)). This electrode showed better electrochemical performance (high energy density (20 Wh kg-1) and high power density (681 W kg-1) at 1 A g-1) than electrodes in conventional supercapacitors.

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