In a not so distant future the concept of electric vehicle range anxiety may completely disappear thanks to research by laboratories across the nation. Technology took a step closer to that future today with the invention of a new type of Lithium-Air batteries made from graphene bubbles that have an energy density so high they could take an electric vehicle 300 miles between charges. In addition to the extended battery life, the batteries are made without precious metals like platinum, which greatly reduces production cost.
In order to create the graphene bubbles the researchers mixed graphene — a form of carbon — with a binding agent. They then released the solution into water and mixed it to create tiny bubbles, and the graphene and the binding agent formed hard shells around the water bubbles. When the bubbles were popped, graphene shells about 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair were left behind. The resulting structures can store 15,000 milliamp hours per gram of graphene – a much higher energy density than is possible with other materials.
However a few obstacles stand in the way of bringing this technology to the market. For one, the batteries perform best in an oxygen-only environment – the moisture in ambient air interferes with the reaction and diminishes the battery capacity. In addition, the technology is not fully rechargeable yet – something the researchers are working hard to remedy. “This hierarchical structure of self-assembled graphene sheets is an ideal design not only for lithium-air batteries but also for many other potential energy applications,” said Dr. Jie Xiao, a leader of the study at PNNL. To top it all off, the lithium-air batteries with graphene bubbles are lighter in weight than current batteries. Less weight, less cost and more energy sounds like the future to us.