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Longer-lasting batteries could be 3D printed from graphene ink to tackle rising demand for energy storage products in household devices or renewable energy systems.
Professor Craig Banks from Manchester Metropolitan University is leading the new project to develop a desktop printer to create batteries, supercapacitors and energy storage devices for phones or tablets, and solar, wind and wave power storage.
Researchers are analysing new techniques for rapid 3D printing with conductive graphene ink to create the batteries, funded by £500,000 from the EPSRC.
By incorporating graphene ink and creating novel 3D structures, it should increase the charge storage of batteries to meet possible future demands.
Prof Banks, Associate Dean for Research and Professor in Electrochemical and Nanotechnology, said: "Energy storage systems (ESS) are critical to address climate change and, as clean energy is generated through a variety of ways, an efficient way to store this energy is required. Lithium and sodium ion batteries and super/ultracapacitors are promising approaches to achieve this. This project will be utilising the reported benefits of graphene - it is more conductive than metal - and applying these into ESS. In addition to the choice of material, the overall architecture of ESS are of critical importance. The architecture of ESS can be improved through the use of 3D structures, which have high surface areas, good electrical properties and hierarchical pore structures/porous channels. We're trying to achieve a conductive ink that blends the fantastic properties of graphene with the ease of use of 3D printing to be manipulated into a structure that's beneficial for batteries and super capacitors."
'Plug in and go'
Current techniques use 'semi-graphene' inks that contain graphene but also carbon black and graphite, thus reducing the material's performance. The process of 3D printing also needs to be refined as each layer that is printed has to be cured an hour before another layer can applied.
Prof Banks added: "We need to figure out a way to cure it directly, possibly by shining a UV light on to it, as anything above a micron level takes a long time. deally, we could have the brilliant scenario where you just plug in and go - printing whatever structure you want out of graphene from a machine on your desk."
The project runs for three and a half years. Graphene was discovered at the University of Manchester in 2004. It is 200 times stronger than steel and is a highly efficient conductor of heat and energy.