By Sarah Chiang
Interviews are picking up. Last week, we interviewed professors Richard Kaner, Abdon Sepulveda, Sean Hecht, Cara Horowitz, Bradley Shaffer, Jasper Kok, and Diana Huffaker, along with Senior Technology Strategist, Andy Abele. With eleven interviews under our belts, we have already started to see parallels between research!
As we become more acquainted with Grand Challenge faculty, familiar names are surfacing as professors detail project collaborators. This seems to be a sure sign that we are on the right track! While we did run into a few speed bumps with rescheduling, the interviews we held were insightful and practically a private lecture with the professors! As a refresher, our goal is to compile the information we gather into a database, which will provide more visibility and push the Grand Challenge into the public spotlight.
A sneak peak:
One of our longer interviews was with Professor Richard Kaner, who detailed his work on improving supercapacitors. Supercapacitors are basically devices that can charge and discharge large amounts of energy very quickly. By comparison, batteries store higher amounts of energy, but charge and discharge slowly. Now, one may wonder what makes a supercapacitor better than a battery. Battery performance degrades after a while, as we all have experienced with our phones or laptops, but supercapacitors do not have this disadvantage. They could last through millions of charging cycles.
Another question would be why we haven’t phased out the battery if we have supercapacitors. Unfortunately, most supercapacitors don’t store as much as a battery can for the same space. Professor Kaner is working with a carbon-based material called graphene, which has a high energy density. This means it has the potential to store large amounts of charge, making it competitive with the average lithium-ion battery. Graphene is also advantageous because it is biodegradable, non-toxic and abundant.
Watch Professor Kaner's faculty research lecture (supercapacitors at 35:00), along with his popular short video detailing supercapacitors, which was a finalist in the GE Focus Forward $200K Filmmaker Competition!