We’ve heard a lot about graphene, a single-layer hexagonal arrangement of carbon atoms, about which it has been said might revolutionize lithium-ion battery, water filtration, and even reduce emissions.
Scientists are still discovering all the wonderful things that graphene might be able to do, but we’re still waiting for a lithium-ion battery with 2,000kWh/kg and a Tesla Model S with 5,000mi range on a single charge. With battery technology constantly advancing, it wouldn’t surprise me if we had something like this in the next decade. On the other hand, graphene-based technology still hasn’t been commercialized, so most of our use of graphene has been limited to what-ifs and could-bes.
One of graphene’s strengths, as a material, especially in a proposed lithium-ion battery, is the fact that it conducts electricity and it is thin enough, just one atom thick, that it exponentially increases the surface area within the battery, the key to increased capacity. What about something a hair thicker? Well, not a literal hair, because that would be huge, especially when you’re talking about nanomaterials. Researchers at Drexel University have discovered new electrochemical properties of a new nanomaterial they’re calling MXenes, which could give graphene a run for its money.
MXenes are similar to graphene in a couple of ways, in that the metals form hexagonal structures, and that they are electronically conductive. Instead of just one layer, as in graphene, MXenes are a few atoms thick and readily accommodate metallic ions. Mxenes, tuned to specific functions as anode and cathode could serve to further the development of a flexible lithium-ion battery, or possibly other metal-ion batteries in the future. Additionally, electrodes made of titanium carbide MXene, “show excellent volumetric super capacitance… significantly higher than what is currently possible with porous carbon electrodes. In other words, we can now store more energy in smaller volumes, an important consideration as mobile devices get smaller and require more energy,” says Drexel University’s Dr. Michel W. Barsoum.
Image © Drexel