Engineers are collaborating on a project to strengthen energy storage technologies through the use of 3D printers. This project is also highlighting the importance of 3D printing in electrical engineering.

Researchers at the University of Manchester have developed a unique way to convert 2D materials into electrodes that can be stored in devices such as supercapacitors. This requires turning a clay-like substance known as MXene into an ink, which once dried, can conduct electricity.

In 2011, engineers from Drexel University in the United States created MXene. It consists of carbon atoms and transition metals. This substance has two properties which make it particularly useful; it is hydrophilic, which means it can be turned into an ink, and it is conducive for electricity. This means it is more suitable for energy storage than other 2D clays.

MXene has been derived from graphene, the world’s first 2D material which was a better conductor than copper, but one million times thinner than human hair, stronger than steel, transparent, and flexible. The discovery of graphene opened the door for scientists to experiment by creating other 2D inks, each with differing properties.

However, to make effective use of these properties, the inks need to be integrated into devices and structures.

Source: Engineering.com

Drexel College of Engineering Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Dr Yury Gogotsisaid, “so far only limited success has been achieved with conductive inks in both fine-resolution printing and high charge storage devices.

“But our findings show that all-MXene printed micro-supercapacitors, made with an advanced inkjet printer, are an order of magnitude greater than existing energy storage devices made from other conductive inks.”

University of Manchester researchers have done just that. They put MXene through their 3D printer and showed how they could make the most of the compound.

Team leader Suelen Barg said, “We demonstrate that large MXene flakes, spanning a few atoms thick, and water can be independently used to formulate inks with very specific viscoelastic behavior for printing.

“These inks can be directly 3D printed into freestanding architectures over 20 layers tall.

“Due to the excellent electrical conductivity of MXene, we can employ our inks to directly 3-D print current collector-free supercapacitors.

“The unique rheological properties combined with the sustainability of the approach open many opportunities to explore, especially in energy storage and applications requiring the functional properties of 2-D MXene in customized 3-D architectures."

University of Manchester researchers said 3D printed MXene electrodes could have significant use in supercapacitors. The supercapacitors could store power and weigh less than what is already in energy storage devices today. In future, this could help electric vehicles, solar panel energy storage batteries, smartphones, and other electronic devices deal with electrical charges much more efficiently and expand the energy storage capabilities.

Ph.D. students from the University, Wenji and Jae, said, “additive manufacturing offers one possible method of building customized, multi-materials energy devices, demonstrating the capability to capture MXene’s potential for usage in energy applications.

“We hope this research will open avenues to fully unlock the potential of MXene for use in this field.”

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Works Cited

Greenwood, Matthew. “Engineers Use 3D Printing to Turn 2D Materials into Electrodes.” Engineering.com, www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/19430/Engineers-Use-3D-Printing-to-Turn-2D-Materials-into-Electrodes.aspx.

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