2014 Graduate Fellows / Graduate Fellows

David Zeigler

Graduate Student, Materials Science & Engineering

Utilizing n-Type Polymers with Ionophoric Sidechains as the Negative Electrode in Supercapacitors

One of the major obstacles to the adoption of solar energy is how to efficiently store electricity generated during the day for use at night. Currently, lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries are two of the most common ways to store electricity. Unfortunately, both of these batteries suffer from major drawbacks; the former contain highly toxic and corrosive pollutants, while the latter are expensive. In addition, both batteries are slow to charge and gradually degrade over time, losing much of their initial storage capacity after successive recharge cycles. To address these issues, supercapacitors have emerged as an alternative way to store electricity. Unlike the aforementioned batteries, supercapacitors charge nearly instantaneously and can theoretically be recharged indefinitely without degrading. Although activated carbon — the main electrode material utilized in commercial supercapacitors — is inexpensive and robust, it suffers from low charge storage capacity compared to batteries. Hence, my research aims to explore replacements for activated carbon that can hold more electricity per charge, but are similarly inexpensive and durable.

The Washington Research Foundation has provided a six-year gift of $6.74 million to support nine new faculty hires, six postdoctoral researchers and the creation of a new experimental manufacturing facility on campus that will help move discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace. This investment in the CEI is truly transformational.”
– Daniel Schwartz, CEI Director
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– Mildred Dresselhaus, Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, Emerita and Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Energy competition is opening up in a variety of ways, the push for carbon control will continue, and the rate of technology advancement is exponential. All the things I’ve seen at the CEI are just perfect for the way we see things going in energy. You guys are at the cutting edge. We’re counting on you.”
– Ronald Litzinger, President, Edison Energy
Since its founding the Clean Energy Institute has contributed more than $1.1 million toward the education of 66 STEM scholars and recruitment of 12 students through our fellowship programs.