Graphene, the first two-dimensional crystal known to man, could be the key to stronger, longer lasting batteries. Similar in atomic structure to the graphite found in pencils, graphene has properties you won’t find in any writing implement. It’s 200 times stronger than steel, more than one million times thinner than a human hair, and is a highly conductive material on the molecular level. On top of all that, it is capable of extracting hydrogen from the atmosphere, which could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Researchers at Manchester University in the UK are responsible for isolating graphene back in 2004. The research team is headed by Andrew Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who were both awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for their discovery.
Since their initial discovery, the team has been focused on investigating graphene’s potential applications related to batteries. With their most recent findings, the research team believes graphene represents the greatest advance in battery technology to date. Because of its super strong and thin nature, it could be the perfect material to use as a proton-conducting membrane, which is key to efficient fuel-cell technology. Graphene works far better than other materials for this purpose, so it could produce more efficient and durable batteries.
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Graphene is also capable of performing virtual magic tricks, by extracting hydrogen from thin air to produce energy. This is perhaps the most promising property of this amazing material. Researchers believe graphene could be put to work in mobile electric generator, where it can grab hydrogen from the air to produce energy that is then stored in fuel cells (also using graphene membranes). Hydrogen is already commonly used as an energy source, but it’s typically harvested from fossil fuels. Graphene could make it possible to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels by making use of hydrogen in the air, with little to no negative impact to the environment.