Researchers at the Monash University Department of Materials Engineering are working on a new system of energy storage. The system would consist of graphite and water and have the ability to perform much like lithium ion batteries, but with a faster recharge rate. Dr. Dan Li heads the team and says the batteries could recharge within seconds and have an almost indefinite lifespan.
The researchers use a material called graphene, which results from the breaking down of graphite. Commonly, graphite is used in pencils and is cheap and readily available. The graphite is broken down into layers one atom thick, creating graphene. When these extremely thin sheets are stacked into a usable structure, the sheets bond together and reform graphite. Due to this, graphene has not been widely used.
Dr. Li and his team have discovered a way to stop the bond from occurring while maintaining the desirable properties of graphene. The key was the use of water. By keeping the graphene sheets moist, the graphene exists in gel form, providing repulsive forces between each sheet.
Graphene is strong, chemically stable, an excellent conductor of electricity, and has a very high surface area. All of these qualities make it perfect for energy storage applications. Testing has showed that the graphene gel significantly outperforms carbon-based technology in terms of amount of charge stored and the speed at which the charges can be delivered.
“Once we can properly manipulate this material, your iPhone, for example, could charge in a few seconds, or possibly faster.” Dr. Li said. “High-speed, reliable and cost-effective energy storage systems are critical for the future viability of electricity from renewable resources. These systems are also the key to large-scale adoption of electrical vehicles.”