Researchers at University of Manchester's National Graphene Institute are exploring different ways to reduce the size and weight of batteries and extend their lifespan by adding graphene as a component material.
In a new project entitled "Electrochemical Energy Storage with Graphene-Enabled Materials" the university researchers are working with a number of commercial partners, including Rolls-Royce, Sharp, and Morgan Advanced Materials. The commercial partnership is viewed as crucial for the development of the future applications of graphene. In total Graphene@Manchester is currently working with more than 30 companies from around the world on research projects and applications.
But before we build the batteries we need to know how graphene will interact with the chemical components specifically electrolytes, explained Professor Andrew Forsyth from the School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering.
Prof. Forsyth's colleague Professor Robert Dryfe from the School of Chemistry performs experiments to analyze the chemical interactions between graphene and lithium ions. Professor Dryfe is also exploring how quickly electrons are transferred across graphene and the magnitude of capacitance the amount of electrical energy that can be stored on graphene surfaces.
Another focus of the project is graphene-based supercapacitors, which tend to have high power capability and longer cycle life than batteries, but lower energy storage capacity. Nevertheless, they hold much promise to complement batteries as part of an integrated storage solution.
According to Professor Forsyth a combination of graphene batteries and supercapacitors could give electric car sales some serious thrust. Today these green vehicles run on batteries that weigh 200kg as much as three passengers. By reducing the weight of the batteries graphene should boost vehicle efficiency and increase the driving range of electric cars to beyond 100km a limitation that currently prevents their widespread uptake.