Forrest Brown has always planned to attend graduate school. However, it wasn’t until his participation in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that he knew the topic he would pursue: supercapacitors.
The recent Georgia College graduate spent 10 weeks researching energy storage devices in the SULI program which is sponsored by the Department of Energy Office of Science’s, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), managed by ORAU.
After visiting several national laboratories during a research experience for undergraduate students, Brown developed an interest in performing extended research at one of the facilities. With dual bachelor degrees in chemistry and physics, he found ORNL’s materials science portfolio appealing.
“I wanted to be involved with research that has applications to the real world and can easily and quickly be integrated into industrial processes,” Brown said. Brown’s research involved developing transparent supercapacitors, devices that store electric charge, with performance levels comparable to non-transparent counterparts alongside his mentor, Dr. Tolga Aytug. Alternative to conventional battery technologies, supercapacitor devices provide increased durability and much faster charging-discharging rates, experience no memory effect and are safer and maintenance free.
“Achieving supercapacitors with the synergic advantages of improved electrochemical performance, ultrahigh flexibility and transparency is the greatest challenge,” Brown explained. By determining the physical and chemical properties of electrode and electrolyte materials, as well as device construction protocols, Brown’s studies will ultimately improve the performance of flexible and transparent supercapacitors with performance levels comparable to non-transparent counterparts.
Brown will continue to perform research on supercapacitors at ORNL before he begins a doctorate program for materials science and engineering. Prior to participation in the SULI program, he possessed little knowledge of the fabrication or operation processes of supercapacitors. Now, he plans to dedicate his graduate studies to this newfound interest. His research experience at ORNL allowed him to develop skills that he can apply not only during graduate research, but also to his future career.
“I established a strong baseline and experience related to fundamental mechanisms of supercapacitors, different materials systems and the characterization techniques, all of which will allow me to easily move into the storage device field,” Brown said.