Researchers have touted graphene as a game-changing material that could boost the power and energy capacity of a lithium-ion battery.
Graphene, a film of carbon atoms just one atom thick, is an excellent conductor of electricity. In a battery, the massive surface area of such carbon sheets could be a boon to increasing the power capacity of a lithium-ion battery. The only problem is lithium ions won’t bond with graphene, which makes it practically useless in a battery.
While pure graphene didn’t seem to be a good option, researchers turned to imperfect graphene, that is, carbon mixed with other elements. Testing with boron, researchers at Rice University found the material to be about twice that of the standard graphite currently used in lithium-ion batteries. The new material is also more stable and doesn’t expand and contract as much as graphite alone.
Combined with a lithium-cobalt oxide cathode, the new graphene-boron anode has an energy density of 2,120wh/kg. For comparison, the lithium-ion battery packs in a Tesla Model S are rated at 116Wh/kg. Such a development, if successfully scaled and commercialized, could realize electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S with ranges exceeding 5,000mi per charge.