How the humble pencil could lead to cars that save the planet

20
graphite pencils
graphite pencils

Graphene is made from tiny molecules of graphite, which has been used in pencil tips for decades. As a material it is very thin and very strong and this is because Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice.” (1)

Graphene is tipped to be a game changer in the quest to produce more efficient batteries for electric cars. This year “Graphene has also been used with silicon to make a lithium-ion battery which charges in just 15 minutes, and lasts one week on a single charge.”(2) Technology giants Samsung are developing battery technology that could be used in many applications including phones and batteries for cars.

Leaders in the West are supporting the potential benefits of producing faster quicker charging batteries and have invested in a massive research programme that will create fresh economic development. “The European Union’s biggest-ever research initiative is the Graphene Flagship, which commands a budget of around €1 billion (£800 million).” (3)

The University of Sutherland has been part of a consortium working on projects to advance the use of the material. Autocar magazine quotes expert Ahmed Elmarakbi who explains how the material can also be used to manufacture lightweight batteries. “We could build a battery 50% of the size and get the same capacity,” said Elmarakbi. The high-energy-density, lightweight battery would also be far cheaper to make, with some components costing up to 90% less.” (4)

Amazingly miniscule particles of graphene are mixed together and made into a film containing a electrolyte layer. The graphene-based supercapacitor film would be able to be fully charged in a matter of minutes, rather than the several hours it takes for a conventional battery. But while it might charge and release energy faster than standard batteries, they currently don’t hold nearly as much energy. This is one aspect that the scientists hope to change with further study.” (5) says IFL science magazine.

Graphene and carbon based supercapacitors create electrostatic fields unlike lithium batteries which have a chemical reaction and are expensive to produce as they rely specifically on valuable lithium in their manufacture. Lithium-ion batteries are heavy and require a lot of charging to hold enough power for the car to travel every day.

In contrast to traditional electric car batteries graphene supercapacitors can use their power in a more sophisticated and efficient way: “harvesting energy from vehicles when they brake, making them an important component in electric vehicles.” (6)

This week the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that “urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target..pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.” (7)

Revolutionising the transport industry globally is key to improving air quality and reducing the carbon and toxic gases getting into our atmosphere. A new breed of electric cars with Graphene batteries could be the answer to building environmentally friendly auto mobiles. It could be possible to roll out this innovative electric car concept to all car owners and other forms of private and public transport across the world. If this happens we would certainly be able to dramatically curtail the amount of harmful emissions from conventional transport currently being created.

It is a race against time. Experts say we have twelve years to meet our drastic eco change targets. It may take more than a decade to produce vehicles that can meet our performance criteria, suit our electrical supply and charging systems and be able to be recycled at the end of their lifespan. Mass production of lighter, brighter, greener vehicles is definitely just what the world has been waiting for.

 

(1) ‘What Is Graphene?’ Graphene Info Website, 15 Feb 2018 https://www.graphene-info.com/introduction

(2) ‘Cars made of graphene (well, almost!) Urquhart-Dykes & Lord LLP Terence Broderick 28 Jun 2018 https://www.udl.co.uk/insights/cars-made-of-graphene

(3) ‘Revolutionary’ material charges 12-times faster than current lithium-ion batteries’ 18 Jun 2018 https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/graphene-battery-charge-smartphones-electric-vehicles-earthdas-a8404451.html

(4) Graphene: the breakthrough material that could transform cars’ Autocar magazine, Jesse Crosse, 11 May 2018 https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/graphene-breakthrough-material-could-transform-cars

(5)’Graphene-Based Supercapacitors Could Lead To Battery-Free Electric Cars Within 5 Years’ IFL Science magazine 11 Oct 2018 https://www.iflscience.com/technology/graphene-based-supercapacitors-could-eliminate-batteries-electric-cars-within-5-years/

(6)’Fancy charging up your electric car in 10 minutes?’ BBC News, Matthew Wall, 6 Mar 2018 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43285885

(7)’We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN’ The Guardian, Jonathan Watts 8 Oct 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report