Will graphene overtake lithium? hero graphic

Will graphene overtake lithium?

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By Elisabeth Kindig


In episode 5 of Tech Lightning Rounds, Beth Kindig goes directly to the source of expertise in graphene research in her interview with Sian Fogden, the Communications Officer at Graphene Flagship. Interviews are held in “lightning round” format, which are rapid interviews with tech experts for immediate depth on each topic.

Graphene batteries may be an important alternative to lithium-ion batteries, with the latter having limitations due to the frequency lithium requires charging. Graphene is a newly stabilized and isolated material, which won two scientists the Nobel Prize in 2010 and ultimately led to the introduction of graphene batteries. These two scientists now work for Graphene Flagship, the EU research initiative.

We speak to Sian Fogden of Graphene Flagship, the EU’s largest research initiative on graphene about the many applications for graphene including flexible mobile phones powered by flexible graphene batteries, flexible screens, and flexible circuits. The material also enables high-speed internet connectivity due to Graphene’s layer of carbon atoms that have amazingly high surface area. By increasing the surface area, you can increase the area of the charge you retain and the amount of charge you can put in a graphene battery.

Fogden discusses the possibility of graphene being used as brain implants and many other future discoveries. Don’t miss this exciting episode on the properties of graphene and possibilities of graphene batteries.

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13:02 BK: In the third lightning round I talk with Siân Fogden from the Graphene Flagship, which is a research initiative for the material graphene. This promising material for graphene batteries was discovered fairly recently and can potentially replace lithium batteries and even silicon.

13:16 BK: What will graphene batteries replace, or how will it be used?

13:19 SF: So, there are many, many applications for graphene. You can think about it in terms of, for instance, in terms of the phone of the future. You could imagine how graphene could enable a fully flexible mobile phone by enabling flexible graphene batteries, flexible screens, and flexible circuits. Thinking about wearable devices, graphene batteries can be embedded into fabrics so that you could change the way that you interact with your surroundings by having sensors actually either embedded in fabrics, or sensors that you could actually place on your skin that could read your vital signs, for instance.

14:03 SF: And something that I think is really important for the future of graphene is the high-speed internet connectivity. So at the moment, our whole society wants higher speeds, faster speeds, broader band speeds, if you will. And what graphene can do is really enable that.

14:27 BK: Can you go over the qualities of graphene again and just what is it improving as far as graphene batteries versus lithium or what is it improving versus other materials on the market today?

14:38 SF: So do you want me to talk about graphene batteries specifically or kind of more broadly?

14:45 BK: Both.

14:45 SF: So the batteries specifically, if you look at lithium-ion batteries, what you can do is by adding graphene to both the cathode and the anode… Graphene is this layer of carbon atoms that has this amazingly high surface area. By increasing the surface area you can increase the area of which charge can actually be retained, therefore increasing the amount of charge you can put in a graphene battery. Because graphene is also flexible, you can also create flexible batteries.

15:18 BK: Where do you mine graphene? Where’s graphene coming from?

15:23 SF: Okay, so graphene… That is a very good question, by the way. There are different ways of making graphene. Graphene is a single layer of graphite. So every time you write with a pencil, the reason a pencil writes on a page is ’cause the layers of graphene slide over one another and you leave some on the page as you write. What the scientists have done is isolated a single layer of graphene. The scientists have isolated a single layer of graphite, and that is graphene. So you can mine graphite and actually turn it into graphene.

16:00 BK: Graphene was isolated and stabilized by two scientists who won the Nobel Prize in 2010. Siân discusses why this material is worthy of the Nobel, including ground-breaking applications for this material.

16:12 BK: A couple years ago, I think it was a decade ago, there was a Nobel Prize given out in regards to graphene. Can you go over what that prize was and why it was awarded to the scientists with graphene discovery?

16:25 SF: Yes. In fact, I think it was the 2010 Nobel Prize. I’m trying to remember now. But the discovery actually happened in 2004. And it was just… So graphene was first isolated by two scientists who work now for the Graphene Flagship. And it was that first isolation of graphene that won them the Nobel Prize, because before they showed that graphene could be isolated, graphene being this single layer of graphite, people thought, scientists thought, it would have exciting properties, but they weren’t sure that it would ever really be stable. And what the two scientists who won the Nobel Prize showed, is that you could isolate it and it could be stable. And they did the first ever experiments on single-layer graphene, which is just one atom thick.

17:19 SF: I guess just really that graphene is going to be the future of our material science. It can be used in so many different ways: Embedding it in concrete, using it in concrete to replace steel, for instance. So it’s really high-tech applications, things like deep brain implants or implants on the surface of the brain. You could imagine graphene being able to give people back speech for people who’ve lost speech, like the… I think the biomedical applications of graphene are going to be really important.

18:00 BK: Thank you for listening to Tech Lightning Rounds. Please support the production of this podcast by subscribing on iTunes and leaving a review.

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