Curtin University research has found a simple and affordable method to determine which chemicals and types of metals are best used to store and supply energy. This may be a breakthrough for any battery-run devices and technologies reliant on the fast and reliable supply of electricity, including smart phones and tablets.

Lead author Associate Professor Simone Ciampi from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences explained this easy, low-cost method of determining how to produce and retain the highest energy charge in a capacitor, could be of great benefit to all scientists, engineers and start-ups looking to solve the energy storage challenges of the future.

“All electronic devices require an energy source. While a battery needs to be recharged over time, a capacitor can be charged instantaneously because it stores energy by separating charged ions, found in ionic liquids,” Associate Professor Ciampi said.

“There are thousands of types of ionic liquids, a type of “liquid salt,” and until now, it was difficult to know which would be best suited for use in a capacitor. What our team has done is devise a quick and easy test, able to be performed in a basic lab, which can measure both the ability to store charge when a solid electrode touches a given ionic liquid – a simple capacitor – as well as the stability of the device when it’s charged,” he said.

Ciampi added, “The study has also been able to unveil a model that can predict which ionic liquid is likely to be the best performing for fast charging and long-lasting energy storage.”

Research co-author PhD student Mattia Belotti, also from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences said the test simply required a relatively basic and affordable piece of equipment, called a potentiostat.

“The simplicity of this test means anyone can apply it without the need for expensive equipment. Using this method, our research found that charging the device for 60 seconds produced a full charge, which did not ‘leak’ and begin to diminish for at least four days,” Belotti said.

Setup to demonstrate ionic liquids that can form long-lived double layers, generating electric fields detectable by straightforward open circuit potential measurements. Image Credit: Curtin University. Click image for the largest view.

“The next step will be to use this new screening method to find ionic liquid/electrode combinations with an even longer duration in the charged state and larger energy density.”

The research paper “Experimental Evidence of Long-Lived Electric Fields of Ionic Liquid Bilayers” has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Funded by the Australian Research Council, the study was led by Curtin University and done in collaboration with the Australian National University and Monash University.

Other Curtin authors include Mr Xin Lyu, Dr Nadim Darwish, Associate Professor Debbie Silvester and Dr Ching Goh, all from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences.


This is likely to light up the minds of quite an array of engineers and designers. The bugaboo of capacitors leaking or simply losing power over a short time has been exasperating. It would be grand to have products that are sure to use the power that’s been charged, be less heavy and hold the charge for days. The ability to have more voltage choices in the design opens more interesting possibilities. Lets hope this team’s information gets widespread and put to good use.


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