Our technology defines the world we live in. From smartphones that offer endless information at a glance to artificial intelligence (AI) that can solve complex problems, tech has changed everything. That being said, there is one area that continues to lag—batteries.
While modern devices are capable of delivering all-day battery life, that’s a testament to their hardware and software, not the batteries found inside.
Rethinking the Materials
There are few materials in the world with the potential to reshape entire industries. Graphene is one of them. It is a sheet of carbon that is a single atom thick. Due to this unique structure, graphene can be used as a sort of supercharger for batteries.
Chip Breitenkamp is a polymer scientist and the vice president of business development at NanoGraf, a company specializing in graphene batteries. He says that the material can “make batteries charge faster and dissipate heat more effectively.”
He adds, “Graphene is an amazing material, and it’s particularly amazing as a material for batteries… It means power tools don’t overheat as quickly. It means home appliances serve families better, longer. And it eventually means [electric cars] can charge faster.”
It’s clear that current methods of energy production and storage aren’t sustainable enough to create a safe, healthy future for humanity. Graphene batteries could help change that.
“Essentially, graphene can play a central role in powering a sustainable, electric future,” says Breitenkamp.
Beating Current Methods
Most manufacturers have widely accepted lithium as the standard material for batteries. Sadly, it has some major issues. Over time, lithium deforms and can start to crack. It is also a poor conductor of electricity—which is obviously not a good trait for a battery to have.
That’s where graphene comes in. By coating lithium in graphene, both issues are addressed. Since the high-tech material is a great conductor and is very rigid, it helps keep the lithium in shape and makes the battery more effective.
The benefits don’t stop there, though. Graphene’s strong mechanical properties greatly extend the lifespan of a battery. While that is a good thing on its own, it also means the batteries can work harder. In other words, they can be charged faster without limiting their lifespan.
Typical batteries degrade faster when the charging rate increases. Graphene prevents that damage, meaning batteries can last longer while utilizing things like fast charging.
Samuel Gong, CEO of Real Graphene, says, “A graphene battery can take a lot more punishment in a sense, which enables that extra life cycle. We can push it a lot harder.”
He adds, “I believe [graphene batteries are] just as important to the evolution of technology as compared to something like plastic, where in the future it could be applied to almost everything.”
For now, graphene batteries remain mostly in the realm of testing and prototypes. Thanks to their helpful traits, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in mainstream technology applications within the decade.