It has all the appearances of a breakthrough in battery technology, except that it’s not a battery. Researchers at Nanotek Instruments, Inc., and its subsidiary Angstron Materials, Inc., in Dayton, Ohio, have developed a new paradigm for designing energy storage devices that is based on rapidly shuttling large numbers of lithium ions between electrodes with massive graphene surfaces. The energy storage device could prove extremely useful for electric vehicles, where it could reduce the recharge time from hours to less than a minute. Other applications could include renewable energy storage (for example, storing solar and wind energy) and smart grids.
The researchers call the new devices “graphene surface-enabled lithium ion-exchanging cells,” or more simply, “surface-mediated cells” (SMCs). Although the devices currently use unoptimized materials and configurations, they can already outperform Li-ion batteries and supercapacitors. The new devices can deliver a power density of 100 kW/kgcell, which is 100 times higher than that of commercial Li-ion batteries and 10 times higher than that of supercapacitors. The higher the power density, the faster the rate of energy transfer (resulting in a faster recharge time). In addition, the new cells can store an energy density of 160 Wh/kgcell, which is comparable to commercial Li-ion batteries and 30 times higher than that of conventional supercapacitors. The greater the energy density, the more energy the device can store for the same volume (resulting in a longer driving range for electric vehicles).