The promise of graphene’s superior nanomaterial abilities is finally under the spotlight nearly 20 years after two Manchester University professors figured out how to extract graphene from graphite.
Graphene is the thinnest possible form of graphite. Its molecular structure consists of a thin sheet of carbon atoms, a single atom thick, enabling a very high surface area to volume ratio, making it very useful in batteries and supercapacitors. Graphene’s sought-after benefits for battery production include being a highly efficient conductor of electricity and offering low resistance to heat energy while also being extremely strong but lightweight and flexible. This basket of benefits enables high-speed, high-energy power transfer making this material a perfect conduit to a sustainable, battery-powered future.
According to graphene battery startup Nanograf, graphene batteries exhibit a 50 percent increase in run time compared with conventional lithium-ion batteries, a 25 percent decrease in its total carbon footprint, and half of the weight required to provide the same output. California-based startup Real Graphene is taking advantage of the sturdiness of graphene, which enables batteries to be worked harder with a more powerful electric current. Although batteries for electric vehicles (EV) have to be tested for a minimum of three to four years, they anticipate that the technology could charge a standard consumer EV in under an hour.
The long-awaited hype around graphene may soon bring longer life to household appliances, power tools, and electric vehicles powered with graphene batteries.
The superior properties of graphene batteries could be a boon to the EV industry to enable faster charging for electric vehicles. While funding for additional research and development is limited, with a few startups leading the charge, the sector faces better prospects than a decade ago due to dramatic decreases in costs. Furthermore, the increasing need for corporations to align business practices to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies will likely drive demand for cleaner energy options such as graphene battery power.
While the production cost of graphene currently obstructs the development of further applications, the growing interest of large companies such as Tesla Motors, Samsung, and Microsoft in the development of graphene batteries may soon unleash the full potential of this superpowered nanomaterial.
Implications of graphene battery technology
Wider implications of graphene batteries may include:
- Significant decreases in the cost of EVs that further accelerate the world’s shift away from combustion vehicles of all kinds.
- The accelerated development of electric planes and VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing) vehicles for consumer and commercial use cases—making urban and long-distance drone transport viable.
- Government investment into modernized power grids and charging stations that can safely deliver electricity in a manner that enables the rapid charging that is standard with graphene batteries.
- The creation of new jobs once manufacturing costs taper out and mass production of graphene batteries becomes a reality.
Questions to comment on
- Technology products, such as mobile phones and tablets, and other commercial appliances will likely last much longer when powered by graphene batteries. What effect do you think this will have on retail sales and consumerism in general?
- Considering the benefits of a graphene battery-powered EV, including its rapid charging ability, do you think graphene batteries will stimulate greater interest in and ownership of electric vehicles?