Batteries + graphene = the future?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Photo: Shutterstock/David Naylor

What are the challenges and possibilities in making more efficient and lighter batteries? Is graphene the answer? Daniel Brandell, our thematic leader for Energy Storage, helped organise the Graphene Battery Workshop in Uppsala recently.

– When the interest in graphene rapidly grew in connection to the 2010 Nobel Prize, many people imagined that the material could seriously compete with other carbon-based electrode materials for Li-ion batteries, says Daniel Brandell.
On November 28th, some 60 participants gathered in Uppsala to learn more about the potentials around the combination of graphene and batteries.

The workshop was organised by Uppsala University, Battery 2030+ and SIO Grafen. The lecturers established that it is not primarily as an active battery material that graphene has its merits.
– However, there are a number of other battery applications where graphene is probably interesting. On the one hand, graphene can create more efficient electrodes for the poorly electron-conducting active materials that are easily soluble in most electrolytes, for example sulfur or organic materials, says Daniel Brandell.

Works as a stabilizer
Graphene can also stabilize materials that otherwise have a problematic surface chemistry, such as silicon.
– And as an electrically conductive component, graphene adds very little mass. The critical issue then is to bring down the price of graphene and the environmental impact of the production process, says Daniel Brandell.

The low cost is otherwise a weighty argument for many of the next generation of battery materials, but if the price of the cell eventually becomes higher due to expensive additives, not much is gained.
– At the same time, the reproducibility of graphene must be greater and the material more well defined – at present there is a big difference between graphene and graphene, which obviously makes it problematic to determine the battery performance. Still, much of the graphene development is moving in the right direction, which means we can anticipate more and better implementations in different types of batteries going forward.