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Graphene gets commercialised in new battery tech

Graphene gets commercialised in new battery tech

Argonne's graphitised silicon carbide anode technology is ready for commercialisation, finally taking graphene out of the lab.

Wonder-material graphene, a honeycomb lattice of carbon just one atom thick, is finally set to appear in a commercial product thanks to an agreement between California Lithium Battery and the Argonne National Laboratory.

Discovered by Hans-Peter Hoehm in 1962, graphene was relatively unknown until Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov from the University of Manchester carried out a series of eye-raising experiments on the substance. Thanks to their work, for which they earned the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics, graphene was found to have a wide range of remarkably properties which promise to revolutionise the electronics industry.

Graphene has been suggested as a means of improving the performance of transistors, boosting the capacity of lithium-ion batteries by a factor of ten, as a way of creating an 'optical diode' for terabit-speed optical communications and even convincing electrons to move at the speed of light.

All these potential applications have one thing in common, however: they're confined to the laboratory. Despite years of research and numerous claims of a breakthrough in one field or another, graphene remains the stuff of scientific papers rather than commercial products.

At least, until now.

Energy storage specialist California Lithium Battery (CLBattery) has announced that it has begun work to commercialise a third-generation lithium-ion battery based on technology created at the Argonne National Laboratory. The result: a battery which promises to last three times as long as anything else on the market.

The secret lies in Argonne's silicon carbide battery anode material, which replaces the graphite anode traditionally used in lithium-ion batteries. While silicon carbide had previously been discounted for use in lithium-ion batteries due to its instability, Argonne researchers discovered that applying graphene to the anode - a process it calls graphitisation - resulted in a material with twice the lithium-ion capacity of graphite alone.

Using graphitised silicon carbide as an anode, Argonne claims, results in a direct reduction in weight of the combined anode and cathode by 16 per cent - or, alternatively, an increase in capacity for the same weight. The technology promises to scale with future battery technologies, too, up to a potential 50 per cent weight reduction.

Sadly, while CLBattery is forging ahead with a commercial implementation, it's going to be a while before your laptop or smartphone sees the benefit. The company's first product built around the technology is designed for use in grid energy storage and electric vehicle applications.

Following the technology's release over the next two years, however, it's likely that Argonne will be looking to licence its invention to other manufacturers - including gadget makers. With the promise of increased longevity and a choice of reduced weight or boosted capacity, it could well prove the first real success for the miraculous graphene.

23 Comments

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Bauul 23rd March 2012, 13:10 Quote
It's understandable why they're targeting electric cars. The company who can develop the tech that gives electric cars the same running distance as a petrol car is the company who is guaranteed success for the next twenty years.
aLtikal 23rd March 2012, 13:15 Quote
Interesting point Bauul...Makes you realise how much money could be in this. Imagine a world where consumer electronics are all extremely low powered and the batteries they run on are extremely durable. Apply this concept to cars and wow someone's going to be an insta-billionaire
west 23rd March 2012, 14:28 Quote
electric cars, powered by coal plants. whats the dif?
azazel1024 23rd March 2012, 14:48 Quote
So I am a little confused, in one place it says 3x the capacity and in another a 16% weight reduction for the same capacity or the same weight for increased capacity. Does that mean it is 16% reduced weight for the same capacity as a similar capacity LiIon battery today? Or the same weight for a 16% increased capacity, but a theoretical up to 3x capacity increase? Or does it mean 16% reduced weight, same capacity OR same weight, 3x the capacity?

The later seems to make no sense...because you could make the battery 1/3rd the size and have the same capacity if the tech allowed 3x the increased actual capacity.

In any case, even if we are talking very modest increases, I'll take 16% reduced weight or same weight and 16% increased battery capacity. Anything is better than nothing.
Woodspoon 23rd March 2012, 16:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by west
electric cars, powered by coal plants. whats the dif?
because oil/petrol is running out that's why.
thom804 23rd March 2012, 18:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodspoon
Quote:
Originally Posted by west
electric cars, powered by coal plants. whats the dif?
because oil/petrol is running out that's why.

Doesn't really make a difference at all, your point isn't addressing that really.

If I could find the research again, I would link that in carbon footprint terms, it actually costs more to produce the batteries for these cars than to just keep fossil fuels in cars due to the processes involved, such as actual battery manufacture and into charging of a car from a socket.

Higher carbon footprint = more oil and coal burnt.
John_T 23rd March 2012, 19:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thom804
Doesn't really make a difference at all, your point isn't addressing that really.

If I could find the research again, I would link that in carbon footprint terms, it actually costs more to produce the batteries for these cars than to just keep fossil fuels in cars due to the processes involved, such as actual battery manufacture and into charging of a car from a socket.

Higher carbon footprint = more oil and coal burnt.

Eh? Woodspoon's point addressed it perfectly. What does running out of oil have to do with carbon emissions or (current) alternative costs? Those are two entirely separate issues. Besides, oil will only get more expensive the more we use it up - it's not getting cheaper is it. The more expensive oil gets, the more viable the alternatives become.

Also, it's worth pointing out that having cars powered by coal-fired power stations instead of petrol engines would make a HUGE difference to the local environment. While there may be no difference in the total amount of carbon and other pollutants released into the air, the point is they can be released tens or hundreds of miles away from their point of use - so no more millions of cars, buses and lorries all busily pumping out their poisonous fumes where people are living and breathing.

Another benefit is that not all electricity is generated by coal-fired power stations either. Much of it is produced by gas, which is a lot cleaner, and by nuclear, which is much cleaner still, (in terms of breathable pollutants anyway). And that's without taking into account generation from things like: hydro, tidal, wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, waste incineration, the differing biomass processes, etc, etc.

Then there's those clever chaps over in the US who have only recently had some success working on fusion technology: They fired 192 lasers in shaped pulse that generated 411 trillion Watts of peak energy, (though only for 23 billionths of a second). That's a thousand times more energy than the US currently uses. That may still be decades away from commercial scale production, but it's coming.

Batteries will be the future, for a lot of things.
themassau 23rd March 2012, 19:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thom804
Doesn't really make a difference at all, your point isn't addressing that really.

If I could find the research again, I would link that in carbon footprint terms, it actually costs more to produce the batteries for these cars than to just keep fossil fuels in cars due to the processes involved, such as actual battery manufacture and into charging of a car from a socket.

Higher carbon footprint = more oil and coal burnt.

on some part you are right. but electricity is the must universal energy that we know. but if you drive on fossil fuel you will have 30% efficiency.

if you would use a electrical car that runs on the electricity that is produced by fossile fuels then you would make more carbon pollution.

but an electrical car could drive on almost every kind of feul / energy source. don't forget that an electrical motor has an efficiency from 75% up to 95%. so if we could make use of more "green" energy then we would be more efficient.

don't forget that most electricity produced at midnight is wasted on nothing. if we would use that energy to charge our cares then it would be better used.
west 23rd March 2012, 21:20 Quote
@John_T

your 1st paragraph:
my original post was trying to point out that the electricity from these batteries usually comes from coal (negating the potential CO2 losses, unless you have nuclear power in your area). I hadn't even considered the amount of petrol it takes to make a battery, not to mention to synthesize the chemicals used in them, or to make the things that make them, ect.

your 2nd paragraph:
The local environment isn't why there's a huge push for alt. energy. Also who's to say what impact all-electric cars would have (if all cars were electric that is). I assume that many power grids would have to be massively overhauled and more power stations would be needed.

3rd: gas still produces CO2 (the main problem here), the others will not work in all location and people are afraid of nuclear power.

I agree though, batteries are probably the future. There's still a long way to go though.
Gareth Halfacree 23rd March 2012, 23:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azazel1024
So I am a little confused, in one place it says 3x the capacity and in another a 16% weight reduction for the same capacity or the same weight for increased capacity. Does that mean it is 16% reduced weight for the same capacity as a similar capacity LiIon battery today? Or the same weight for a 16% increased capacity, but a theoretical up to 3x capacity increase? Or does it mean 16% reduced weight, same capacity OR same weight, 3x the capacity?
Sorry, that's my fault - that part wasn't particularly clear. It doesn't refer to three times the *capacity,* but three times the *lifespan* - i.e. three times as many charge/discharge cycles before it becomes next to useless.
John_T 24th March 2012, 00:45 Quote
Hi West,

I was more answering thom804 than you really, (hence my quoting him and not you). I understand the point you were making, I was just pointing out that it's not just as simple as saying the electricity that would power these batteries comes from coal - as that's only partly true.

- In the UK, coal accounts for less than a third of our electricity production, with the rest mainly gas and nuclear.
- In France it's even lower, as over three quarters of their electricity comes from nuclear.
- I couldn't tell you what coal production is in the US without researching it, but I don't think it's their (your?) dominant source.

Also, you're correct that clean air isn't the primary reason for the push for new technology, but it is still a substantial reason. In the UK back in the 1950's we had something called the 'clean air act' which prohibited the burning of smoky fuels in towns and cities after terrible smogs killed thousands of people. Since then we've had various other targets to clean the air of our major urban area, (which have largely been very effective).

All over Europe their are stringent targets to meet regarding the quality of the air in major urban environments, again, I don't know what the situation is regarding targets in the US, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't a consideration. I know the West Coast in particular has problems with smog, as do parts of Japan and great swathes of China. Like I say, it may not be the primary motivation, but it's definitely up there.

As for the electricity grids, well I think they need updating anyway don't they? The UK National Grid certainly does, and from what I've read of rolling brownouts and blackouts occurring in the US on both coasts, I pretty sure theirs does as well. Hell, I think that's half the reason we've had such a huge push on photovoltaic micro-generation in this country, (panels on roofs) to take some of the strain off the main grid.

Gas does still produce CO2, but as I said earlier, it produces far fewer other pollutants - and not everyone is afraid of nuclear. I live not too many miles from a nuclear power plant, and I'd much rather live near that than a coal one - and most of the people I know feel the same.

You're right though, not one single thing will work everywhere - we're in for a mix of solutions for decades yet. I wasn't trying to argue with you as much as point out that it isn't as cut and dried as saying it's just 'swapping petrol for coal'.

You're also right that there's a long way to go yet, but stuff like this article is a good move in the right direction. :)
ssj12 24th March 2012, 02:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodspoon
Quote:
Originally Posted by west
electric cars, powered by coal plants. whats the dif?
because oil/petrol is running out that's why.

not running out, just getting harder and more expensive to get. The easily obtained is basically nonexistent, hence why we are looking at shale tar sands as a source of fuel.
Blackshark 24th March 2012, 11:46 Quote
Since when are we running out of oil on planet Earth!!?? Utter tosh. There is plenty of oil, the only problem is whether it is economical and evironmentally friendly to get it. And both these are based on a judgement call at the time of asking.

Natural gas is available by the bucket load all across the planet but needs fracking to get at it. For what ever reason 1 or 2 negative Fracks have been picked up and become the poster child of Fracking by the media both in EU and US.

LNG is the way to go, certainly the states will move in this direction. Only way for them to rid themselves of handing almost a trillion USD to OPEC a year. The amount of money being charged by the main oil producing countries is frankly disgusting with the production costs. The reason for the disparity is all due to their populations refusing to work and the state needing to provide a life for them.
smc8788 24th March 2012, 12:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssj12
not running out, just getting harder and more expensive to get. The easily obtained is basically nonexistent, hence why we are looking at shale tar sands as a source of fuel.

I wouldn't say nonexistent (though we have possibly already passed the point of peak oil), but most of the larger reserves are located in the middle east and other politically unstable regions, which is not good news for the biggest consumers of oil (i.e. the US/Europe) who have to rely on a constant supply of oil from these countries when diplomatic relations between them are already tense.

http://gcaptain.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/who-has-the-oil.jpg

The other point here is that while most of our electricity is produced from non-renewable sources like coal, oil, gas and nuclear power stations, these are more efficient than most car engines. Then you have to factor in that the UK currently produces somewhere between 5-10% of its electricity from renewable resources, which overall makes electric cars a less polluting form of transport than standard combustion engines. This is of course ignoring the environmental impact of producing the batteries themselves.
MSHunter 24th March 2012, 19:23 Quote
Last time I was reading up on Electric cars. the "Extended tailpipe" problem (i.e. producing Electricity from coal) the figures where that Per pound of carbon produced a Coal power plant is 40% more efficient then a car. Now take into account that no car even Electric is 100% efficient we will take a 10% off that and we are still 30% more efficient.

Any more questions?
ZERO <ibis> 24th March 2012, 21:35 Quote
You forgot to factor the 15-25% energy loss in long distance AC power transmission. The real way to improve grid efficiency is to have a larger number of local power plants closer to the users. This can really only be achieved with power generation methods that are not location dependent. Of these the most viable long term solution we can build today is a Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor. These could be located close to the users and provide over 100KW to local areas. Unfortunately these being 4th gen reactor technology no plant based on Thorium has ever been built. Even if not implemented on a micro scale we will still one day benefit from the great safety of Thorium based reactors along with the reduced waste compared to existing reactor designs.
ch424 24th March 2012, 22:14 Quote
- Previously unheard of California-based energy startup
- Lots of pseudo-science on the (terrible) website
- Makes announcement of record scientific breakthrough via press release
- No ties to actual academia or published research

Snake oil much?
Gareth Halfacree 24th March 2012, 22:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
- No ties to actual academia or published research
Did'ja *read* the article? The graphitised silicon carbide anode is based on a patent belonging to Argonne National Laboratory, itself based on research from Northwestern University: http://gtp.autm.net/technology/view/5083

That's 'Argonne National Laboratory' as in 'US Department of Energy National Laboratory,' by the way. I'd say that's a pretty close tie to academia *and* published research!
ch424 24th March 2012, 22:49 Quote
AUTM is a website for connecting "inventors" to investors, which furthers my point - by making lots of noise, making some tenuous patent claims and claiming their tech will go into all devices, it's very easy to con money out of investors.

I can't find any papers or patents about li-ion, graphene or silicon carbide by the authors listed in that AUTM link. The only patent I can find is US20110121240 which has been filed but not granted, and by different people, not attached to a company or institution. It has a tenuous link to Argonne under "Government Interests".

I might be wrong of course, but there are *loads* of energy start-ups hungry for money that put out one press release, get loads of money, then mysteriously disappear. I'd have thought that if they had legitimate and demonstrable technology, they'd have done the patent, then privately approached one of the Li-Ion big boys for a licensing deal.
Gareth Halfacree 24th March 2012, 22:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
I might be wrong of course, but there are *loads* of energy start-ups hungry for money that put out one press release, get loads of money, then mysteriously disappear. I'd have thought that if they had legitimate and demonstrable technology, they'd have done the patent, then privately approached one of the Li-Ion big boys for a licensing deal.
Possibly, but I'm still crossing my fingers - I want an Ultrabook form factor laptop with ~20 hour battery life please. Without having to remortage the house...
PingCrosby 27th March 2012, 08:09 Quote
I have a bowl of Grephene every morning, its better than porridge.
william 14th June 2012, 01:10 Quote
West says what's the diff if we are generating our power with coal. OK, forget the fact that even with centrally generated coal power, a car emits less Carbon dioxide than if it runs on petrol. Now start with grid that only uses coal. Use some of that energy to manufacture wind turbines and solar panels. Now the electricity that charges your car is a little greener. Use some of this greener energy to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and super batteries. The power gets a little greener. Continue the loop until you can retire the coal fired power stations.
L33Hamilton 16th June 2012, 02:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azazel1024
So I am a little confused, in one place it says 3x the capacity and in another a 16% weight reduction for the same capacity or the same weight for increased capacity. Does that mean it is 16% reduced weight for the same capacity as a similar capacity LiIon battery today? Or the same weight for a 16% increased capacity, but a theoretical up to 3x capacity increase? Or does it mean 16% reduced weight, same capacity OR same weight, 3x the capacity?

The later seems to make no sense...because you could make the battery 1/3rd the size and have the same capacity if the tech allowed 3x the increased actual capacity.

In any case, even if we are talking very modest increases, I'll take 16% reduced weight or same weight and 16% increased battery capacity. Anything is better than nothing.

It could be because it has "up to a potential 50 per cent weight reduction" equaling to 150% more for the same size and "material with twice the lithium-ion capacity of graphite alone" so all together you get 300%
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