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General Electric engineers experimenting with devices using porous carbon electrodes first observed the EDLC effect in 1957.[5] They believed that the energy was stored in the carbon pores and the device exhibited "exceptionally high capacitance", although the mechanism was unknown at that time. General Electric did not immediately follow up on this work. In 1966 researchers at Standard Oil of Ohio developed the modern version of the devices, after they accidentally re-discovered the effect while working on experimental fuel cell designs.[6] Their cell design used two layers of activated charcoal separated by a thin porous insulator, and this basic mechanical design remains the basis of most electric double-layer capacitors.

Standard Oil also failed to commercialize their invention, licensing the technology to NEC, who finally marketed the results as “supercapacitors” in 1978, to provide backup power for maintaining computer memory.[6] The market expanded slowly for a time, but starting around the mid-1990s various advances in materials science and refinement of the existing systems led to rapidly improving performance and an equally rapid reduction in cost. The first trials of supercapacitors in industrial applications were carried out for supporting the energy supply to robots.[7] In 2005 aerospace systems and controls company Diehl Luftfahrt Elektronik GmbH chose supercapacitors to power emergency actuation systems for doors and evacuation slides in airliners, including the new Airbus 380 jumbo jet.[8] In 2005,

the ultracapacitor market was between US $272 million and $400 million, depending on the source. As of 2007 all solid state micrometer-scale electric double-layer capacitors based on advanced superionic conductors had been for low-voltage electronics such as deep-sub-voltage nanoelectronics and related technologies (the 22 nm technological node of CMOS and beyond).

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