With new innovations and Indigenous leadership, this facility aims to be a clean energy hero
To me, supercapacitor sounds an awful lot like an invention of doom dreamed up by a comic-book evil genius. But this isn’t something that a lonely scientist in Coke-bottle glasses would introduce with a maniacal laugh. In fact, the goal of a supercapacitor is to save the planet, not destroy it.
A supercapacitor is a battery alternative (eat your heart out, Energizer Bunny). It’s an electrochemical device that can charge and discharge energy very quickly, and support a renewable energy grid. So in this comic-book metaphor, the supercapacitor isn’t the villain—it’s the superhero. Fitting, right?
Heroes aren’t born, they’re made. So is the case with supercapacitors. And a new manufacturing facility in Abbotsford is about to be the first in the country bringing them to life. This building, called the Centre of Excellence, is the latest from Abbotsford-based clean energy startup Atlas Power Technologies. Atlas announced this week that the venture will launch by the end of 2022.
According to Atlas CEO Mitchell Miller, supercapacitors have faced limits in the past because of their “high cost and low performance.” His aim with this new Abbotsford facility is to make a more affordable and higher-performing product. “We’re solving one of the biggest challenges of the clean energy transition, which is, How do we store renewable energy, efficiently and cost-effectively?” Mitchell said in a release. In other words, a supercapacitor is only as good as how much energy it can store (otherwise, it’s just a dead battery), and Atlas’s version aims to solve that problem.
Mitchell went on to explain that Atlas will use “mined thermal coal and or petroleum coke, a byproduct of the oil sands,” to make “high-grade, activated carbon, which is a necessary component of supercapacitors.”
Miller, who has Métis heritage, hired top student interns from Mitacs’ Indigenous Pathways program to help him plan to facility, as well as enlisting support from researchers at SFU and UBC. SFU research team leader Jason Jiacheng Wang is now Atlas’s chief technical officer. Also on staff is UBC Okanagan school of engineering assistant professor Jian Liu. The company has secured more than $400,000 in funding from Mitacs, and its product will perform 10 times better than other modern supercapacitors, Miller maintains.
Atlas Power Technologies was recently highlighted in a video series by Mitacs called Their World, Our Future.
Only time will tell exactly what the impact of this new technology will be, but if Marvel wants the rights, I’d like to play the plucky, lovable reporter and perhaps meet Zendaya.