If you are like me and not up to date in the technology world then you have probably never heard of graphene. Well graphene is a thin layer of pure carbon matter. It is a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms that are actually bonded together in a hexagonal pattern. This type of organic material can be produced with low costs, is 207 times stronger than steel, and one of the thinnest compounds known. It is also one of the best electrical conductors around, which is why scientists have been researching how graphene might eventually replace the battery.
Scientists compare graphene with lithium-ion batteries
Scientists have been working with graphene to see how it can be used in technology. They have found that batteries might be replaced with laser- induced graphene made supercapacitors, used for storing power. In fact, researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas have been working on ways to make micro superconductors out of laser-induced graphene. Unlike the usual lithographic process, LIG-produced supercapacitors take only minutes to make, and the only materials needed are a polyimide plastic sheet and a computer operated laser. Researchers discovered that the computer operated laser would burn everything on the polyimide, except the carbon from the top layer, where graphene remains. An official statement from lead researcher, James Tour, was given during a press release. Tour stated that, “It’s a pain in the neck to build micro supercapacitors now. They require a lot of lithographic steps. But these we can make in minutes: We burn the patterns, add electrolyte and cover them.”
Graphene compared to lithium-ion batteries
In comparing your standard lithium- ion batteries to laser-induced graphene made supercapacitors, you will find some similarities and differences. Both contain about the same energy density, holding 934 microfarads per square centimeter. The difference in the laser-induced graphene produced supercapacitors is that they out measure typical batteries, in regards to power and not losing potency over time. According to IEEE Spectrum, a magazine that discusses engineering and science, laser-induced graphene supercapacitors can be bent over 10,000 times and still function normally.
Will we see a replacement soon?
Research takes time and even with these types of promising results, the research team at Rice says that we won’t be seeing laser-induced graphene supercapacitors replacing lithium-ion batteries anytime soon. Each day the team moves a step closer in making this a reality. To learn more about the Rice University researchers, and what they have been working on in regards to graphene, click here. It is also interesting to take a look at a video of these researchers hard at work. For those who might want a clear idea of how laser-induced graphene is worked on in the lab, check out this Rice University YouTube video.
Technology is ever changing and research is the best way to spark new innovations. It is amazing to see men and women so interested in science and working with graphene, a carbon compound I never heard of before, to create a change in items we use every day.