A new nanomaterial acts as both battery and supercapacitor. A conductive polymer (green) formed inside the small holes of a hexagonal framework (red and blue) works with the framework to store electrical energy. (William Dichtel, Northwestern University)

A new material could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range. Researchers have combined a covalent organic framework (COF) – a strong, stiff polymer with an abundance of tiny pores suitable for storing energy – with a very conductive material to create the first modified redox-active COF that closes the gap with other older, porous, carbon-based electrodes.

Each pore is 2.3 nanometers wide, but the COF is full of the pores, creating a lot of surface area in a very small space. A small amount of the COF powder, just enough to fill a shot glass, has the surface area of an Olympic swimming pool. The material can store roughly 10 times more electrical energy than the unmodified COF, and it can get the electrical charge in and out of the device 10 to 15 times faster.