Nanotechnology in energy storage

Graphene and nanotechnology in energy storage offer exciting prospects, promising dramatic increases in capacity with reductions in size, weight and cost. Photo credit: The Graphene Flagship

Graphene and nanotechnology in energy storage promise dramatic increases in capacity with reductions in size, weight and cost. Photo credit: The Graphene Flagship

Nanotechnology has been a theme of futurist fiction for decades now. And its products are finally coming out of the lab to find a role in sunscreen, medical plasters and self-cleaning glass, to name a few applications. Meanwhile, although still very much at the development phase and some way from commercialisation, nanotechnology in energy storage is an exciting prospect for the sector, promising dramatic increases in capacity with reductions in size, weight and cost.

It could also lead to novel alternatives to conventional batteries, such as the recently reported energy-storing electrical wire that inventors claim may one day be woven into clothing to supply electricity for our portable gadgets.
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Energy storage news: 23.10.13

The Graphene Flagship was officially launched this week. The initiative, funded by the European Commission, aims to take graphene from research to industries. Photo credit: Chalmers University

The Graphene Flagship has been officially launched. Funded by the European Commission, it aims to take graphene from research to industries. Photo credit: Chalmers University

A selection of energy storage news from our Twitter feed over the last week.

  • Advanced battery energy storage system, part of the new GridSTAR Smart Grid Experience Center, launched at Philadelphia Navy Yard by Penn State University.‬

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A supercapacitor to match lead-acid

Dan Li's team has developed a graphene supercapacitor.

Dan Li’s team is researching graphene supercapacitors. Photo credit: Monash University

Monash University researchers have brought next generation energy storage closer with an engineering first: a graphene-based device that is compact yet lasts as long as a conventional battery.
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Onion rings to feed Li-ion?

Hexagonal graphene “onion rings” grown at Rice University.

Hexagonal graphene “onion rings” grown at Rice University. Photo: Tour Group/Rice University

Researchers at Rice University have discovered a potentially new graphene variant that could be applied to lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Concentric hexagons of graphene grown in a furnace at the university represent the first time anyone has synthesised graphene nanoribbons on metal from the bottom up, atom by atom.
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Graphene producer joins the dots

A criticism often leveled at the energy storage sector is that its solutions aren’t modular, aren’t scalable and are not vertically integrated with the rest of the value chain. Our industry is not deaf to these clarion calls. And neither, it appears, are its potential suppliers. Take Durham Graphite Science (DGS).
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Britain bets on graphene

Discovered by scientists at Manchester University in 2005, graphene has a wealth of potential applications related to both renewables and energy storage – as well as flexible electronics and opto-electronics, and much more.

It is also having a lot of UK government money thrown at it, according to the BBC. The UKP 21.5 million promised by British finance minister George Osborne will come from an earlier funding allocation, and – it is hoped – will be matched by another UKP 14 million from industry and universities.

Amongst the commercial partners will be  Nokia, BAE Systems, Procter & Gamble, Qinetiq, Rolls-Royce, Dyson, Sharp and Philips Research.

Why energy storage is really superficial

If you want to improve the performance of batteries and capacitors, one sure-fire way is to increase charge density. And the way to do this is to up-scale the surface area of your electrodes. Various configurations of carbon, both alone and in combination with other elements, can provide that increase, which is why we have reported on everything from nanoflowers to a carbon nanofoam.

The latest news in the battle for increased surface area comes from Rice University, where scientists have seamlessly combined carbon nanotubes a few atoms wide and 120 microns long onto one-atom thick graphene sheets, reports Science Daily. That means that if the nanotubes were the same width as an average house, they would rise up from the graphene ‘ground’ like mega-skyscrapers… into space.

As you can imagine, that’s a lot of surface area: 2,000 square metres per gramme of material, in fact. But what about practical applications? Researchers at Rice say their tests indicate the material already performs as well as the best carbon super-capacitors.

Graphene research excites investor

Graphene is making an impact beyond the lab and into the boardroom, it seems. Graphite mining company Focus Graphite has reached an agreement to develop next-generation rechargeable batteries with Hydro-Quebec’s Reseach Institute, reports Proactive Investors UK.

The three-year research and development deal will actually be between the Institute and Focus’s privately-held joint venture Grafoid, with the eventual objective of producing rechargeable batteries based on graphene and lithium iron phosphate materials.