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In situ NMR and electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance techniques reveal the structure of the electrical double layer in supercapacitors

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  • John M. Griffin
  • Alexander C. Forse
  • Wan-Yu Tsai
  • Pierre-Louis Taberna
  • Patrice Simon
  • Clare P. Grey
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>08/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Nature Materials
Issue number8
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)812-819
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Supercapacitors store charge through the electrosorption of ions on microporous electrodes. Despite major efforts to understand this phenomenon, a molecular-level picture of the electrical double layer in working devices is still lacking as few techniques can selectively observe the ionic species at the electrode/electrolyte interface. Here, we use in situ NMR to directly quantify the populations of anionic and cationic species within a working microporous carbon supercapacitor electrode. Our results show that charge storage mechanisms are different for positively and negatively polarized electrodes for the electrolyte tetraethylphosphonium tetrafluoroborate in acetonitrile; for positive polarization charging proceeds by exchange of the cations for anions, whereas for negative polarization, cation adsorption dominates. In situ electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance measurements support the NMR results and indicate that adsorbed ions are only partially solvated. These results provide new molecular-level insight, with the methodology offering exciting possibilities for the study of pore/ion size, desolvation and other effects on charge storage in supercapacitors.