If you are a frequent user of smartphone or tablet, you know more than others that "mobility" is a magic word. However, when was the last time your iPad was plugged to recharge its battery? Probably less than 24 hours ago. What if graphene was providing the world with a disruptive technology allowing batteries to last three times longer? This is what California Lithium Battery, a start-up based in Los Angeles, is aiming for.
Despite the obvious mobile phones/tablets market, this is not the main target of this young company. The two major sectors that California Lithium Battery wants to conquer is the one of electric vehicles and the less known grid storage facilities.
Environmental-friendly focused research
Prof. Harold Kung is principal investigator of a technology that was detailed one year ago. As a researcher at Northwestern University, he was trying to develop an effective way to increase battery life. He and his team started looking into Si–Graphene composite five years ago and was focused on reducing carbon emission from vehicles.
I looked into why people don’t like to buy electric cars, which is because of the battery life. So looking into that, we said 'What can we do about it?' Improve energy density and power delivery.
The result did not come long after that. Instead of using the classical graphite at the anode of their battery, the team used Si-Graphene, a layered material containing Silicon and Graphene. The idea was published in October 2011 in the journal "Advanced Energy Materials".
From the lab to the market
Just one year after this, the company California Lithium Battery, led by Phil Roberts, collaborated with Argonne National Laboratory and announced an important milestone for the new technology. The new type of anode, called GEN3, which contains SI-Graphene and is used with advanced cathode and electrolyte materials, increases energy density by 3 times and specific anode capacity by 4 times over existing lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). They claim that :
Independent full cell tests reveal performance characteristics, with an energy density of 525WH/Kg and specific anode capacity 1,250mAh/g. In contrast, most commercial LIBs have an energy density of between 100-180WH/kg and a specific anode capacity of 325mAh/g. This equates to more than a 300% improvement in LIB capacity and an estimated 70% reduction in lifetime cost for batteries.
The company plans to produce industrially the new GEN3 within two years. Phil Roberts, the CEO, thinks that they will replace graphite anodes in most lithium batteries over the next 2-3 years.
Graphene in your cars, mobile phones and laptops
If the technology hits its target, LIBs could be produced for under $175/kWh (135€/kWh) and compete with the cost of fossil-fuelled powered vehicles. The car industry is currently looking for an efficient energy storage technology to reduce both costs and weight, but also improve lifetime.
However the first daily life objects that would benefit from the graphene-based battery are probably portable electronics. Despite the fact Kung is not directly involved in the company, he is currently filling a patent of one variant of the technology. He is in talks with cell phone companies to commercialize his own graphene-based battery.
The pace at which graphene came out from the lab to the front row of advanced technology is quite unusual. Discovered in 2004 it won the Nobel prize in 2010, and people already think of using it in mobile devices no later than in 2014. So just 10 years after its discovery. Here at Graphenea we believe that a revolution is occurring now and we help other companies to work with the best graphene products. That's what we are aiming for, and that's what we do.
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