Known for their extremely light weight and extreme mechanical strength and flexibility, 2D materials are also excellent conductors of heat and electricity, rendering them an excellent choice for electricity generation and energy storage. Graphene, which is purely composed of carbon atoms and is believed to be the world’s strongest material, is a good example of 2D materials.
Since graphene was discovered in 2004, 700 more 2D materials forecasted to be chemically stable remain to be synthesized. Researchers from the University of Illinois, Chicago have been granted with a $1.44-million National Science Foundation funding for them to discover new 2D materials, which can be applied in fabricating better and yet cheaper batteries. These batteries will ultimately be used in electric grids and automobiles.
The objective of the researchers is not only to improve the properties and performance of 2D materials in a battery but also to comprehend how they function. “We want to find new catalyst materials that can increase a battery’s efficiency significantly, not incrementally. We believe that the new materials can increase its performance for electrochemical reactions by about 1,000 times, compared to existing materials. This will be revolutionary,” explained Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.
Electrochemical reactions involve electric charges traveling between a solid electrode and a liquid containing ionic species. The research team will be combining the 2D materials with a liquid that is rich in ions, such that electrochemical reactions will occur. These reactions can be used to generate sustainable energy and store energy.
“Electrocatalysis, as used in energy storage and conversion devices such as advanced batteries, fuel cells, photovoltaics and chemical electrolyzers, is becoming an increasingly important alternative to conventional thermal catalysis. However, further improvements are needed in efficiency, cost reduction, and chemical selectivity before it can be commercially marketed,” said Robert Klie, professor of physics.