A Very Special Clay

by Hannah Brown

Children grow up making little animals, cities and civilizations out of clay and play-dough. They mold the flexible material into new worlds with ease and joy. What if materials of that same plasticity could be used in other ways? To power the lights that these children use to make their creations by? Or your smart phone, your computer, your home? While in its first stages of development, researchers at Drexel University are one step closer to making a malleable, and conductive, power source. Called MXene, this material consists of electrodes made up of two-dimensional titanium carbide particles, made from etching aluminum from titanium aluminum carbide. This material is made using lithium fluoride and hydrochloric acid. When introduced to water, it becomes flexible like clay. This means that the material can be shaped and rolled out, as thin as tens of microns thick, to create any shape necessary for the product at hand. Once it dries, after being molded, it is highly conductive. (nature.com)

The researchers, lead by Yury Gogotsi, believe that the unique “physical properties of the clay…as well as its performance characteristics, seem to make it an exceptionally viable candidate for use in energy storage devices like batteries and supercapacitors.” Even though this is novel, it seems to work efficiently. As a capacitor, it can store 900 farads per cubic centimeter, which is higher than other materials and the researchers’ first iterations of the product. It also has a long life span, losing none of its capacitance even after more than 10,000 charge/discharge cycles. (txchnologist.com)

The efficiency and promise of this technology is intriguing. I am sure that as the researchers continue to develop it further, the applications will grow and it will be adapted for various products.

Txchnologist staff. “Soft Conductive Clay Shows Promise For Future Batteries” txchnologist.com December 3, 2014

Michael Ghidiu, Maria R. Lukatskaya, Meng-Qiang Zhao, Yury Gogotsi & Michel W. Barsoum. “Conductive two-dimensional titanium carbide ‘clay’ with high volumetric capacitance” nature.com December 4, 2014

Drexel Nanomaterials Group. MXenes. Nano.materials.drexel.edu

 

 

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