Supercapacitors finding new markets and applications as new types emerge

August 05, 2013 // By Dr Peter Harrop, IDTechEx
Market research company IDTechEx has chosen supercapacitors as a focus topic, and is mounting a conference and exhibition on the topic in Santa Clara, California late in 2013. Ahead of that event, the company's Dr Peter Harrop has written this paper on the current state of the sector.

Life is good for supercapacitors manufacturers and developers. That includes those involved in the intermediate product, the supercabattery or Asynchronous Electrochemical Double Layer Capacitor (AEDLC) with its higher energy density achieved in a compromise of other operational parameters intermediate between supercapacitors and batteries, notably the supercabattery called a lithium-ion capacitor.

In some contrast to lithium-ion batteries, where the number of manufacturers is rising to 200 amid spectacular bankruptcies that are only a foretaste of the shakeout to come, there are only 80 manufacturers of supercapacitors and supercabatteries, none of them occupying huge, largely idle production lines like those encountered at leading lithium-ion battery companies. In part, the optimism comes from the fact that supercapacitors are improving faster than batteries and they have the potential, theoretically at least, to match or hugely out-perform the parameters of batteries. Already power density is magnitudes better and energy density, typically one tenth of that of a lithium-ion battery, is rapidly improving without adding major expense down the production line; also, non-toxic, non-flammable versions abound, in contrast to the situation with Li-ion batteries. These improvements trigger many new applications such as replacing a lead acid battery in a truck with a same-format supercapacitor to guarantee cold starting; and replacing lead acid batteries for micro-hybrid conventional cars – known as stop-start – where over 600,000 supercapacitors have been supplied by Maxwell Technologies alone. Maxwell is the market leader that has just announced its best quarter ever. In recent times, its largest sales have been into electric buses in China, where its products protect the battery bank, improving performance and causing smaller batteries to be needed.

It is relatively easy for supercapacitor companies to raise funds. Acquisitive Ioxus, a manufacturer of premium performance ultracapacitor technology for use in transportation, industrial and energy applications, received $15 million in Series C funding from investors. Recently, Ioxus announced 80% annual growth in Japan, a progressive market for ultracapacitor applications, though