New battery materials developed by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Vorbeck Materials Corp. of Jessup, Md., could enable power tools and other devices that use lithium-ion batteries to recharge in minutes rather than hours. In addition, research at Georgia Tech is working towards increasing the capacity of graphene batteries using through the use of silicon anodes instead of carbon for new lithium-ion battery technology.
Adding Graphene to Lithium-ion Batteries
Vorbeck collaborated with researcher Ilhan Aksay at Princeton University. PNNL demonstrated that small quantities of graphene—an ultra-thin sheet of carbon atoms—can dramatically improve the power and cycling stability of lithium-ion batteries. Plus, it can do this while maintaining high energy storage capacity.
They combined discoveries with Georgia Tech’s work on self-assembling nanotech. The pioneering work could lead to the development of graphene batteries with two major advantages:
- They can store larger amounts of energy in the same size package, and
- They can recharge much more quickly.
A Simple Theory for Complex Graphene Batteries
The way it works is simple—at least in theory. The use of graphene-based batteries is a completely new direction. It gets battery cells to charge more quickly. Lithium-ion batteries work by transferring lithium ions between a cathode and an anode using a liquid electrolyte. That takes a certain amount of time, especially during the recharging phase. But, improving the cathodes by coating them with graphene can allow more ions to transfer. This also increases the speed of transfer.
On top of this, the researchers plan to utilize nanotechnology in a unique way. The nanotech would help produce reusable silicon-based anodes to enhance the battery’s overall storage capabilities.
What Graphene Batteries Could Mean for Power Tools
Graphene is made of carbon sheets that are only one atom thick. It is highly conductive and can be used for semiconductors or with electronic displays. This new research also means that your 18V cordless drill battery could recharge in just a few minutes instead of an hour. It could also potentially run for five times as long.
Now THAT would be a massive improvement.
Other Upsides to Using Graphene in Lithium-ion Cells
Researchers are very confident in the capabilities of graphene as a conductive enhancement. In fact, they claim graphene-based cell phone batteries, which currently take between one and five hours to fully recharge, would have their time reduced to under 10 minutes!
As for the nanotech, it’s still an expensive process, but with further research and economy of scale, it could make cordless power tools run longer, or at the very least pack a lot more power into a smaller package.
Imagine the equivalent power of a 36V tool in a 12V or 18V package.
It’s certainly got our imaginations soaring!