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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Very high-performance silicon anodes with engineered graphene assemblies

August 27, 2015

Researchers in China have developed a self-supporting high-performance silicon anode for Li-ion batteries (LIBs) consisting of silicon-nanoparticle-impregnated assemblies of templated carbon-bridged oriented graphene.

The binder-free anodes demonstrate exceptional lithium storage performances, simultaneously attaining high gravimetric capacity (1390 mAh g–1 at 2 A g–1 with respect to the total electrode weight); high volumetric capacity (1807 mAh cm–3—more than three times that of graphite anodes); remarkable rate capability (900 mAh g–1 at 8 A g–1); excellent cyclic stability (0.025% decay per cycle over 200 cycles); and competing areal capacity (as high as 4 and 6 mAh cm–2 at 15 and 3 mA cm–2, respectively) that approaches the level of commercial lithium-ion batteries. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Laser-burned graphene could replace platinum as fuel cell catalyst

August 21, 2015

Researchers at the Tour Lab at Rice University developed an improved cost-effective approach using direct laser scribing to prepare graphene embedded with various types of metallic nanoparticles. The resulting metal oxide-laser induced graphene (MO-LIG) is highly active in electrochemical oxygen reduction reactions with a low metal loading of less than 1 at%. As such, it could be a candidate to replace expensive platinum in catalysts for fuel cells and other applications.

In addition, the researchers noted in their open access paper published in ACS Nano, the nanoparticles can vary from metal oxide to metal dichalcogenides through lateral doping, making the composite active in other electrocatalytic reactions such as hydrogen evolution.

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NSF funds new center for advanced 2-D coatings; energy conversion and storage

August 13, 2015

A new NSF-funded Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) at Penn State and Rice University will study the design and development of advanced coatings based on two-dimensional (2D) layered materials to solve fundamental scientific and technological challenges that include: corrosion, oxidation and abrasion, friction and wear, energy storage and harvesting, and the large-scale synthesis and deposition of novel multifunctional coatings.

The Center for Atomically Thin Multifunctional Coatings, (ATOMIC), is one of more than 80 Industry/University Cooperative Research Program centers established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage scientific collaboration between academia and industry. It is the only NSF center dedicated to the development of advanced 2-D coatings.

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Manchester team greatly broadens thermal window of thermoelectric material using graphene; potential vehicle applications for waste heat recovery

July 22, 2015

Researchers at the University of Manchester (UK) have shown that the thermal operating window of the thermoelectric material lanthanum strontium titanium oxide (LSTO) can be expanded down to room temperature by addition of a small amount of graphene. Applications of LSTO-based thermoelectric materials are currently limited by their high operating temperatures of >700 °C.

Rather than working within the usual narrow “thermal window”, these bulk graphene/LSTO nanocomposites exhibit useful ZT values across a broad temperature range of several hundred degrees, the team reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. This increase in operating performance can enable future applications such as thermoelectric generators in vehicles for waste heat recovery and other sectors, the researchers suggested.

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Argonne researchers develop macroscale superlubricity system with help of Mira supercomputer; potential for “lubricant genome”

Argonne scientists have used the Mira supercomputer to identify and to improve a new mechanism for eliminating friction, which fed into the development of a hybrid material that exhibited superlubricity—a state in which friction essentially disappears—at the macroscale—i.e., at engineering scale—for the first time. A paper on their work was published in the journal Science.

They showed that superlubricity can be realized when graphene is used in combination with nanodiamond particles and diamond-like carbon (DLC). Simulations showed that sliding of the graphene patches around the tiny nanodiamond particles led to nanoscrolls with reduced contact area that slide easily against the amorphous diamond-like carbon surface, achieving incommensurate contact and a substantially reduced coefficient of friction (~0.004).

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New rationally designed high-performance Li-S cathode; rate performance, capacity and long life

July 10, 2015

Researchers in China report the development of a rationally designed Li−S cathode consisting of a freestanding composite thin film assembled from sulfur nanoparticles, reduced graphene oxide (rGO), and a multifunctional additive poly(anthraquinonyl sulfide) (PAQS): nano-S:rGO:PAQS.

The resulting cathode exhibits an initial specific capacity of 1255 mAh g−1 with a decay rate as low as 0.046% per cycles over 1,200 cycles. Importantly, the nano-S:rGO:PAQS batteries exhibit significant rate performances. They maintain a reversible capacity of ∼615 mAh g−1 at a rate of 13.744 A g−1 (=8 C) after more than 60 cycles at various rates and can still have a reversible capacity of ∼1000 mAh g−1 when further cycled at 0.25 C. A paper explaining their work appears in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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Lux: graphene severely underperforming commercially against “massive hype”

July 06, 2015

Market analyst firm Lux Research has maintained a skeptical stance about the commercial prospects of graphene even in the light of the material’s compelling properties. In a 2012 report “Is Graphene the Next Silicon...Or Just the Next Carbon Nanotube?”, Lux examined the interplay between graphene’s compelling performance properties as an advanced material, and the significant hurdles it would inevitably face transitioning from the lab to the marketplace. A research and patent boom along with impressive technical performance is far from a guarantee of commercial success.

Lux is now answering its own question with the assertion that graphene looks much closer to the next carbon nanotube than the next silicon. Reasons the firm gives for this assessment include:

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Skeleton Technologies launches new range of high-performance ultracapacitors; up to 111 kW/kg and 9.6 Wh/kg; hybrid truck application coming

June 30, 2015

Skeleton Technologies (earlier post) has launched a new range of cylindrical ultracapacitors that offers specific power performance of up to 111 kW/kg (SC450, 450F) and specific energy up to 9.6 Wh/kg (SC4500, 4500F) with ESR as low as 0.075 mΩ (SC3000, 3000F)—the highest performance cylindrical cell ultracapacitors in the market.

Through the use of its patented graphene material, the new series features a capacitance of up to 4500 farads (the SC4500 cell). By contrast, the closest competitor product has a capacitance of 3400 farads. Skeleton claims this is the single biggest increase in energy density for ultracapacitors in the past 15 years.

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New Samsung silicon anode with graphene boosts volumetric capacity of LiCoO2 Li-ion cell 1.5x after 200 cycles; gravimetric capacity the same

June 27, 2015

A team at Samsung Advanced Institue of Technology (SAIT, Samsung’s global R&D hub) reports in an open access paper published in the journal Nature Communications on a new approach to advance high-capacity silicon (Si) anodes for Li-ion batteries (LIBs) to commercial viability, with a particular focus on improving the volumetric capacity of LIBs.

The SAIT team fabricated the anode material by growing graphene directly on a silicon surfaces while avoiding Si carbide (SiC) formation by developing a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process that includes CO2 as a mild oxidant. The graphene-coated silicon nanoparticles (Gr-Si NPs) reach a volumetric capacity of 2,500 mAh cm−3 (versus 550 mAh cm−3 of commercial graphite), the highest volumetric value among those reported to date for any LIB anodes while exhibiting excellent cycling and rate performance.

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Tsinghua team develops high-efficiency and high-stability Li metal anodes for Li-sulfur batteries

June 14, 2015

Researchers from Tsinghua University have developed what they call a “promising strategy” to tackle the intrinsic problems of lithium metal anodes for Lithium sulfur batteries—dendritic and mossy metal depositing on the anode during repeated cycles leading to serious safety concerns and low Coulombic efficiency.

As described in a paper published in the journal ACS Nano, the researchers devised a nanostructured graphene framework coated by an in situ formed solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) with Li depositing in the pores (SEI-coated graphene, SCG). The graphene-based metal anode demonstrated superior dendrite-inhibition behavior in 70 hours of lithiation, while a control cell with a copper foil-based metal anode short-circuited after only 4 hours of lithiation at 0.5 mA cm–2.

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MIT team finds chemical functionalization can lead to efficient graphene-based thermoelectric materials

April 14, 2015

Researchers at MIT are predicting that predict that suitable chemical functionalization of graphene can result in a large enhancement in the Seebeck coefficient for thermoelectric materials, leading to an increase in the room-temperature power factor of a factor of 2 compared to pristine graphene, despite degraded electrical conductivity.

Furthermore, the presence of patterns on graphene reduces the thermal conductivity, which when taken together leads to an increase in the figure of merit for functionalized graphene by up to 2 orders of magnitude over that of pristine graphene, reaching its maximum ZT ∼ 3 at room temperature according to their calculations, as reported in a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters. These results suggest that appropriate chemical functionalization could lead to efficient graphene-based thermoelectric materials.

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Vertically aligned sulfur-graphene nanowall cathodes for Li-sulfur batteries deliver high capacity and rate performance

April 11, 2015

A team at Beihang University in China has synthesized cathode materials for Li-sulfur batteries consisting of vertically aligned sulfur–graphene (S-G) nanowalls on electrically conductive substrates. In each individual S-G nanowall, the sulfur nanoparticles are homogeneously anchored between graphene layers; ordered graphene arrays arrange perpendicularly to the substrates, enabling fast diffusion of both lithium ions and electrons.

As reported in their paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the cathodes achieve a high reversible capacity of 1261 mAh g–1 in the first cycle and more than 1210 mAh g–1 after 120 cycles with excellent cyclability and high-rate performance (more than 400 mAh g–1 at 8C, 13.36 A g–1). This is the best demonstrated rate performance for sulfur–graphene cathodes to date, according to the team.

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Northwestern-led team finds slightly imperfect graphene can serve as a highly selective proton separation membrane

March 18, 2015

Researchers from Northwestern University, together with collaborators from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Virginia, the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Puerto Rico, have discovered that protons can transfer easily through graphene—conventionally thought to be unfit for proton transfer absent nanoscale holes or dopants—through rare, naturally occurring atomic defects.

In an open access paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers reported that a slightly imperfect graphene membrane’s speed and selectivity are much better than that of conventional proton separation membranes, offering engineers a new and simpler mechanism for fuel cell design.

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Researchers synthesize new 2D carbon-sulfur MAX-phase-derived material for Li-S battery electrode

Drexel researchers, along with colleagues at Aix-Marseille University in France, have synthesized two-dimensional carbon/sulfur (C/S) nanolaminate materials. Covalent bonding between C and S is observed in the nanolaminates, which along with and an extremely uniform distribution of sulfur between the atomically thin carbon layers make them promising electrode materials for Li-S batteries. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The international research collaboration led by Drexel’s Dr. Yury Gogotsi produced the nanolaminate by extracting the titanium from a three-dimensional material called a Ti2SC MAX phase. (Earlier post.) The resulting products are composed of multi-layers of C/S flakes, with predominantly amorphous and some graphene-like structures. The paper was selected as a VIP article and will be featured on the journal cover.

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SUTD team proposes low-temperature thermionic converter with graphene cathode; about 45% efficiency

March 09, 2015

Researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) are proposing that it is possible to design an efficient graphene-cathode-based thermionic energy converter (TIC)—a device for converting heat to electricity leveraging the phenomenon of thermionic emission, or the release of electrons from a hot body—operating at around 900 K (626 °C) or lower, as compared with a conventional metal-based cathode TIC operating at about 1500 K (1227 °C).

With a graphene-based cathode at 900 K and a metallic anode, the efficiency of the proposed TIC would be about 45%, they concluded in a paper on the work published in the journal Physical Review Applied. If realized, an efficient, low-temperature TIC could provide a supplementary or an alternative approach to thermoelectric devices for waste heat recovery using low grade waste heat—i.e, from engine exhaust or industrial processes.

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Silica-coated sulfur nanoparticles with mildly reduced graphene oxide as Li-S battery cathode

March 04, 2015

One of the main obstacles to the commercialization of high-energy density lithium-sulfur batteries is the tendency for lithium polysulfides—the lithium and sulfur reaction products—to dissolve in the battery’s electrolyte and travel to the opposite electrode permanently. This causes the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.

To prevent this polysulfide shuttle, researchers in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have fabricated SiO2-coated sulfur particles (SCSPs) for cathode material. With the addition of mildly reduced graphene oxide (mrGO) to the material, SCSPs maintain more than 700 mAh g−1 after the 50th cycle. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Nanoscale.

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Rice graphene aerogel catalyst doped with boron and nitrogen outperform platinum in fuel cell ORR

March 02, 2015

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a three-dimensional aerogel and doped with boron and nitrogen (3D BNC NRs) exhibit the highest onset and half-wave potentials among the reported metal-free catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline fuel cells, and show superior performance compared to commercial Pt/C catalyst, according to a new study by Rice University researchers.

A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and various levels of boron and nitrogen to test their electrochemical properties. In research reported in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials, they reported that versions with about 10 atom % boron and nitrogen were most efficient in catalyzing the ORR.

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Researchers suggest hybrid graphene oxide/cellulose microfibers could supersede carbon fibers

January 16, 2015

Researchers from Nanjing Forestry University and the University of Maryland have designed high-performance microfibers by hybridizing two-dimensional (2D) graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets and one-dimensional (1D) nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) fibers. The resulting well-aligned, strong microfibers have the potential to supersede carbon fibers due to their low cost, the team suggests in an open access paper published in the journal NPG Asia Materials.

The hybrid microfibers are much stronger than microfibers composed of 1D NFC or 2D GO alone. In their paper, they reported that experimental results and molecular dynamics simulations reveal the synergistic effect between GO and NFC: the bonding between neighboring GO nanosheets is enhanced by NFC because the introduction of NFC provides the extra bonding options available between the nanosheets.

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Review paper: Graphene and related materials (GRMs) may play major role in energy applications

January 02, 2015

The large specific surface area (SSA)—i.e., the surface-to-mass ratio—of graphene, combined with its high electrical conductivity, high mechanical strength, ease of functionalization, and potential for mass production, makes it an extremely attractive platform for energy applications, such as a transparent conductive electrode for solar cells or as flexible high-capacity electrode in lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors, notes a team of researchers from Europe, the US and Korea, in a paper reviewing the role of graphene and related systems for energy conversion and storage published in the journal Science. The combination of chemical functionalization and curvature control also opens new opportunities for hydrogen storage.

In addition to graphene, they note, other two-dimensional crystals such as the transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) display insulating, semiconducting (with band gaps in the visible region of the spectrum), and metallic behavior and can enable novel device architectures also in combination with graphene. As with graphene, these materials can be integrated on flexible surfaces and can be mass-produced. Yet another class of 2D crystals is the MXenes (e.g., earlier post)—layered, hexagonal carbides and nitrides that can accommodate various ions and molecules between their layers by intercalation. MXene sheets are promising for energy applications, such as lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, and hydrogen storage.

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ORNL teams embeds crown ethers in graphene for increased performance; potential for separations, sensors, batteries, biotech & more

December 28, 2014

This sheet of graphene contains an array of crown ethers that can strongly bind select guest ions or molecules. Image credit: ORNL. Click to enlarge.

A team led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has discovered a way to increase significantly the selectivity and binding strength of crown ethers by embedding them within a rigid framework of graphene. The results, published in Nature Communications, may enable broader use of crown ethers in diverse applications. Their strong, specific electrostatic binding may advance sensors, chemical separations, nuclear-waste cleanup, extraction of metals from ores, purification and recycling of rare-earth elements, water purification, biotechnology, energy production in durable lithium-ion batteries, catalysis, medicine and data storage.

Ethers are simple organic molecules in which an oxygen atom bridges two carbon atoms. When linked together in crown-shaped large molecular rings, they have the ability selectively to incorporate various atoms or molecules within the cavity formed by the ring. The size and shape of the cavity formed within a crown ether molecule confers selectivity for complementary ions and small molecules that fit it, like a lock and key. Crown ethers come in different sizes, so they can accommodate ions of different diameters.

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Univ. of Manchester team finds monolayer graphene permeable to protons; implications for PEM fuel cell and other hydrogen technologies

November 28, 2014

Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have found that monolayers of graphene—which, as a perfect monolayer is impermeable to all gases and liquids—and its sister material boron nitride (BN) are highly permeable to protons, especially at elevated temperatures and if the films are covered with catalytic nanoparticles such as platinum. The finding could have a significant impact on proton exchange membrane fuel cell technologies and other hydrogen-based technologies.

The discovery is reported in the journal Nature by an international team led by Professor Sir Andre Geim, who, with Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov succeeded in producing, isolating, identifying and characterizing graphene in 2004 at the University of Manchester, an achievement for which the pair won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. (Graphene had been studied theoretically as far back as 1947; professors Geim and Novoselov were the first to fabricate and to study the material.)

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Graphene 3D Lab showing prototype 3D printed battery; potential for structural batteries

October 27, 2014

Graphene 3D Lab Inc., which develops, manufactures, and markets proprietary graphene-based nanocomposite materials for various types of 3D printing, including fused filament fabrication, has developed a 3D printable graphene battery. CEO Daniel Stolyarov, presented the prototype 3D printable graphene battery at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in Santa Clara, CA last week.

Graphene 3D Labs combines graphene nanoplatelets with thermoplastics used in FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printing, ultimately resulting in a functionalized 3D printing filament offering electrical conductivity. Currently, the process requires the separate printing of individual components—i.e., cathode, anode, electrolyte. However, a true multi-material 3D printer would enable the printing of the entire battery in one single print, the company notes.

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Rice BN-doped graphene quantum dots/graphene platelet hybrid material can outperform platinum as fuel cell catalyst

October 13, 2014

Preparation procedure for the BN-GQD/G nanocomposite. Credit: ACS, Fei et al. Click to enlarge.

A team at Rice University has created a hybrid material combining graphene quantum dots (GQDs) and graphene platelets that can—depending upon its formulation—outperform platinum as a catalyst for fuel cells.

The material showed an oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) of about 15 millivolts more in positive onset potential—the start of the reaction—and 70% larger current density than platinum-based catalysts. The materials required to make the flake-like hybrids are much cheaper, too, said Dr. James Tour, whose lab created GQDs from coal last year. A paper on their new work is published in the journal ACS Nano.

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