While the demand for ever-smaller electronic devices has spurred the miniaturization of a variety of technologies, batteries and capacitors have lagged behind. Professor Richard Kaner, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, and Maher El-Kady, a graduate student in Kaner's laboratory, have just developed a groundbreaking technique that uses a simple DVD burner to fabricate micro-scale graphene-based supercapacitors, able to charge and discharge a hundred to a thousand times faster than standard batteries.
But as this short film points out, when they began their research, they were only looking for a better way to manufacture graphene. "At the early stages of this research, we invented the method of converting graphite oxide to graphene using the LightScribe DVD drives found in our computers," said Maher El-Kady (press release). Once they developed that process, the team figured out a way to embed electrodes into the graphene, which led to one of the holy grails in the science community: a cheap, efficient, biodegradable supercapacitor, described in the journal Nature Communications. "Using this technique, we have been able to produce more than 100 micro-supercapacitors on a single disc in less than 30 minutes, using inexpensive materials," El-Kady said.