Graphene offers new battery options and potential for limitless energy

New discoveries in graphene technology have the potential to unlock new battery technologies and even unlimited energy batteries.

Graphene has many potentially revolutionary properties. Image courtesy of the University of Manchester
Graphene has many potentially revolutionary properties. Image courtesy of the University of Manchester

Graphene itself is an allotrope of carbon fixed within a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice which was first isolated in 2004.

Since then scientists and researchers have discovered a number of very useful properties of this material including its high strength and its ability to easily conduct heat and electricity.

However now, new research by Paul Thibado, a professor of physics at the University of Arkansas has uncovered a potentially even more revolutionary property of the material.

In order to hold its shape in a 2D lattice, parts of the graphene structure appear to vibrate up and down, in a motion that can be observed using a scanning tunnelling microscope.

Due to the fact that this motion was discovered to be predictable and a uniform, it was found that it could be used for harvesting near-limitless energy.

“This is the key to using the motion of 2D materials as a source of harvestable energy,” Thibado reportedly said.

“Unlike atoms in a liquid, which move in random directions, atoms connected in a sheet of graphene move together. This means their energy can be collected using existing nanotechnology.”

By setting up a microscopic piece of graphene between two electrodes, the researchers managed to generate a small electric current. When scaled up, such a technology could theoretically power a wristwatch or other small electronic device effectively forever.

Samsung develops graphene ball technology

In a slightly less radical but still high innovative use of graphene technology, electronics manufacturer Samsung has announced plans to use balls of graphene in new batteries which it is researching.

Developed by the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology, the graphene balls are to be used in the cathodes and anodes of lithium-ion batteries.

These structures allow for a five-fold increase in charging speed for these batteries, meaning a battery which previously took 1 hour to charge fully, could now take as little as 12 minutes.

These fast charging times, combined with their high operating temperature (60 degrees) would make them ideal for use in electric vehicles.

Samsung has reportedly patented the technology for use in South Korea and the US however it has yet to state when it would bring these batteries to market.