Scientists find way to boost batteries used in mobile phones, electric cars and other modern equipment thanks to ‘wonder material’.
According to research, the capacity of lithium-ion batteries can be nearly doubled by adding graphene (an extraordinary form of carbon) – which offers the potential of longer-lasting power or slimmer designs for consumers.
The experts, led by scientists from Samsung, found the capacity of their batteries was 1.8 times higher and 1.5 times higher at the first and 200th charge compared to commercially-available lithium batteries.
What’s been the problem?
Battery researchers have been excited about the potential use of silicon in the next generation of lithium batteries because of the amount of energy capacity it offers.
But a major stumbling block problem has been that silicon expands as the battery is charged before returning to its normal size as the battery discharges.
This means you need a bigger battery to cope with this expansion, while all that expansion and contraction ultimately offers an inferior lifespan.
Graphene – the magic ingredient
Researchers led by scientists at Samsung, the South Korean tech company, added layers of graphene to silicon nanoparticles in their battery design – which successfully accommodated the expansion of the silicon without the need for additional space within the battery or loss of performance.
The team also managed to avoid the formation of silicon carbide – a combination of silicon and carbon – which would have proved fatal when it comes to battery power.
In fact, their graphene coated silicon anodes performed better than a traditional lithium-ion battery. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, they had 1.8 and 1.5 times the capacity after the first and 200th charge.
“This observation suggests that two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology,” says the researchers’ paper published on the Nature science website.
For you and me, it means that longer-lasting batteries or slimmer batteries – or perhaps an combination of the two properties – could be on the way.
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