Graphene Energy Storage

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted April 18, 2013

The many-headed graphene is on the horizon.

If you’re unfamiliar with the material, you may wonder why I call it that. But those familiar with it will tell you of its exciting potential to permeate multiple layers of diverse industries and fields.

Grafoid Inc. is just one more company taking it upon itself to examine this material’s great potential. The company has entered an agreement with the University of Waterloo for two years of research and development into an electrochemical graphene compound that can be helpful in the automobile and portable storage industries.

The research will cover a wide range of energy needs, including “electrodes, nanocatalyst support, electrolyte membranes and bipolar plates, transparent electrodes and other potential applications which create high-efficiency solutions in electrochemical energy systems and portable electronics,” according to Printed Electronics World.

The research will focus on grahpene derivatives, from sulphur graphene to nanoporous graphene, as Gary Economo, President and CEO of Grafoid Inc. and Focus Graphite Inc. (OTC: FCSMF), said. Grafoid hopes to usher in the next generation of fuel cells using this technology.

GrapheneThe company’s aim is to foster a healthy investment and business environment for graphene technology. Grafoid also provides technical assistance and consulting for manufacturers, miners and suppliers.

Graphene is extracted from graphite, which is essentially comprised of loose carbon layers. Graphene itself is a tight hexagon—roughly the size of an atom. It is incredibly durable and can be incorporated into semi-conductor circuitry and computer hardware.

And it is 200 times stronger steel.

Positive inroads have been made for energy storage in batteries as well. Rice University has created a cathode-like ribbon that is thinner than a sheet of paper. The ribbon is “ten nanometers thick, up to 600 nanometers wide and tens of micrometers in length,” as reported by Energy Storage Publishing. The ribbons were built into prototype cells, which charged and discharged in a matter of 20 seconds—retaining more than 90 percent capacity well beyond 1,000 cycles.

The ribbons work by using a combination of vanadium oxide (VO2) and graphene. Current lithium-ion batteries use vanadium pentoxide as a conductor.

Oxides have been known for their slow charge and discharge rate, but graphene will work to enhance the ribbon’s conduciveness, forming a proper outlet for electrons while serving as a channel for the ions.

The materials used for making these ribbons are not expensive, which is good news for manufacturers, and researchers already believe the ribbons can be manufactured on a mass scale.

There are some kinks to work out, such as maintaining synthesis between VO2 and the graphene, according to Shubin Yang, a graduate student and scientist. But according to Yang, there are ways to remedy this.

From Energy Storage Publishing:

“This required the suspension of graphene oxide nanosheets with powdered vanadium pentoxide in water that is heated in an autoclave for hours. The vanadium pentoxide reduces to VO2, which crystallises into ribbons and the graphene oxide reduces to graphene.”

Graphene will store 10 times the power and allow batteries to charge 10 times faster.

Graphene may be in the R&D phase, but it has already proven to be a valuable resource for energy storage of all types.

Graphene: Wonder Material

Graphene has been dubbed a “miracle material” by the BBC because of its versatile applications.

It is considered much more effective than plastic and can reach into energy, defense, and consumer markets.

The Israelis use the material to make invisible missiles, and there is even talk of a Harry Potter-esque invisibility cloak. University of Texas researchers were able to make a sheet of graphene invisible using electricity.

One graphene credit card can store as much information as a computer.

When its application hits consumer gadgets, the compound could make the Kindle and iPhone seem like antiques.

Graphene can do wonders for the green energy sector as well. It can be used to store more energy in solar cells and electric cars.

And before oil investors turn away thinking this has nothing to do with oil, think again. Floating graphene sensors can be used to detect more oil and gas reserves.

Over 200 companies are looking into graphene as a true source of enhancing their products, but few companies worldwide actually have the material. It will be years before commercial production ensues.

Investing in Graphene

There are two investment avenues for investing in graphene.

The best way to get a direct piece of graphene is to look into graphite mining companies. You’ll find that graphite has many uses aside from the energy storage sector: pencils, machinery lubricant, steel forging, and brake lining, to name a few.

If you’re looking into graphene as way of investing in the future, then tech and research companies are the best places to look. Investment in R&D will be helpful now more than ever, since graphene development is very much in its infant stage. More investment will mean faster breakthroughs, enhancements, and applications in the market.

There is also an expected graphite shortage from rising demand and Chinese supply cuts.

70 percent of the world’s graphite supply originates from China, and the nation is the world’s largest producer and exporter, according to Pro Edge Wire. This is to be expected, since graphite plays a heavy role in steel, which is needed to fuel China’s infrastructure expansion.

To protect the graphite industry, the Chinese government is consolidating the industry in the form of mining shutdowns and tougher environmental standards. The retraction of graphite exporting will ultimately benefit investors in the graphite industry, making prices higher and the market more competitive.

A rise in price will mean higher valued stocks. As more attention is highlighted on graphite as a valued commodity in the industrial sector, so too will it generate more interest in the R&D department.

Graphene has been the subject of discussion in academic journals, the tech industry, and the energy sector. It is only a matter of choosing the industry that interests you the most.

Investors and companies stand to make plenty of money in different fields, and there is no telling how the compound will change the face of energy consumption and technology in the future.


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