Polymer Stretchable Supercapacitor Fibres for Textile Energy Storage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Materials


This project aims to investigate the design and manufacture of supercapacitive fibres made from conducting polymers. These fibres will be made of interconnected networks swollen with solvent to create a gel structure, to give highly elastic behaviour leading to high-performance stretchable fabrics for energy storage. Manufacture of these fibres will be performed using low-energy, low-cost methods that are ideally scalable, to enable future mass-manufacture of these fibres. Charge storage capacity and rates of charge transfer of the nanostructures will be optimised to produce supercapacitive fibres with both a high specific energy and a high specific power, potentially leading to organic supercapacitors that are comparable to the commercially available inorganic ones seen today, but with improved wearability.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509565/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
2162763 Studentship EP/N509565/1 15/09/2017 30/09/2021 Evelyn Chalmers
Description Firstly, this work has contributed to the understanding of the formation, mechanical, and electrochemical behaviour of hydrogels made from conducting polymers, in particular polypyrrole. A simple two-reactant method of creation was perfected, and the effect of adding different chemicals to act as cross-linkers was categorized. We found that both the inclusion of amide bonds as cross-links, and the inclusion of dopamine molecules, improved the mechanical and electrochemical properties of the gels respectively.
Taking a slight tangent from the original aims of the work, we also showed that pyrrole and dopamine could be electropolymerised (formed into polymers by the action of an applied voltage), resulting in a hydrogel which displayed electrochemical behaviour comparable to that of some commercially-available supercapacitors. The inclusion of a polydopamine phase also increased the adhesion properties of the gel, opening up its potential for use as a skin-adhering elastic electronic device. From the results of this work, we also found that dopamine could be polymerised in acidic solution under the action of an applied voltage and the presence of ferric ions - a result previously thought impossible. This will enable the formation of polydopamine films (a very versatile biocompatible coating) on materials which are unstable in alkaline conditions. For this research we also developed a close relationship with Professor Haeshin Lee, one of the first discoverers of polydopamine films.
Running in parallel with this strand of research has been a more macroscopic focus on the creation of wearable textiles from polypyrrole hydrogels. This has included dip- and electro-coating of conventional fibres (both non-conducting, such as cotton, and conducting, such as carbon fibre) and then assembling them into textiles; and also screen-printing of textiles to produce stretchable, conducting patterns. So far, we have found that dip-coating of fibres produces those with the highest conductivity and charge storage capacity (due to the retention of the open network structure), and these can be encapsulated in a non-conductive coating and then hand-knitted or woven to produce flexible, wearable textiles capable of transporting and storing charge. A two-step screen-printing process has been shown to be only partially successful, as the porous structure of the hydrogels is not retained, and therefore the elastic capabilities of the prints are lost. Improved knowledge of the fabrication techniques for conductive textiles has been made possible through this award.
The award funding has also enabled presentation of these results at several international conferences: most notably the Royal Society for Chemistry's MC14, for which a prize was awarded.
Exploitation Route All results obtained could be used in a medical context: the work on polydopamine formation in acidic environments could be used to make pH-sensitive polymers more biocompatible, enabling them to have in-vivo usage. The wearable, polypyrrole-based textiles created could also be used as medical monitoring devices: the screen-printed patterns' conductivities are highly moisture-sensitive, whilst the conductivity of the dip-coated fibres is dependent on their extension and radius of curvature, making them useful strain gauges when knitted or woven into textiles.
The development of these hydrogels for charge storage (as supercapacitors) could also be used in the creation of future wearable electronics: eliminating the need for rigid batteries and instead incorporating the entire device into the garment. This work has shown that such devices can be created in a number of geometries, but the conductivity is still considerably lower than that of commercially-available, stiff supercapacitors. However, future research could improve on this by introducing a metallic or graphene-based phase, enabling commercial development and use of these devices.
Sectors Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Retail

URL https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.chemmater.9b03655https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11705-019-1817-0
Description Collaboration regarding simultaneous polypyrrole-polydopamine formation 
Organisation Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Country Korea, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We initially created the polypyrrole-polydopamine hydrogels, and produced the raw data, whose results were then discussed at length with H. Lee. As such, all equipment and facilities used were owned by our research team.
Collaborator Contribution Professor Lee aided in providing intellectual insight and input into the potential oxidation methods and resulting conformation of the polydopamine once electropolymerized in a polypyrrole scaffold.
Impact Article published by Chemistry of Materials in December 2019: doi 10.1021/acs.chemmater.9b03655
Start Year 2019
Description Science Festival stall 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a stall focused on our group's research into wearable electronics (talking both about our current research and the field as a whole) at the Manchester Science Festival. We ran for three days and were open to the general public, and had continuous engagement both with the presenters and with our hands-on examples of our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018