Batteries energy storage graphene EV batteries

Published on March 23rd, 2016 | by Tina Casey


Scientists Map Two-Way Energy Storage Street For Better EV Batteries

March 23rd, 2016 by  

Energy storage researchers know why graphene plays a key role in the high efficiency of next generation batteries based on graphene-metal oxides, but until now the role of the metal oxides has been somewhat of an enigma. Now the guesswork seems to be over. A research team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found that graphene is not doing all the heavy lifting by itself, and that in fact graphene can thank the metal oxides for endowing it with special super powers.

According to the team, the discovery could lead to a new “design paradigm” for graphene electrons in lithium-ion batteries. That would translate to more efficient EV batteries, among many other applications.

energy storage graphene EV batteries

Energy storage and graphene

For those of you new to the topic, CleanTechnica has been calling graphene the “nanomaterial of the new millennium” its super strength and unique electronic properties lend it to EV batteries, solar cells, and a whole mess of other clean tech goodies.

Metal oxides are compounds of a metal and oxygen, and the Livermore team enthuses over the clean tech applications when they are scaled down to nanosized particles and combined with graphene:

Graphene-metal oxide (GMO) nanocomposites have become renowned for their potential in energy storage and conversion, including capacitors, lithium-ion batteries, sensors and catalysis (for fuel cells, water splitting and air cleaning).

Two-way street for graphene-metal oxides

The idea is that in a lithium-ion battery, the exquisite conductive properties of graphene provide the punch for improved performance, so naturally energy storage researchers have been focusing on optimizing the graphene architecture.

The new Livermore energy storage research demonstrates that the structure of the metal oxide is also important, and that tinkering around with that structure can result in significant improvements.

To get there, the team developed a new process for producing three different kinds of graphene-metal oxide compounds for use in energy storage and compared their electrochemical performance:

We observe that MOs [metal oxides] can play an equally important role in empowering graphene to achieve large reversible lithium storage capacity. The magnitude of capacity improvement is found to scale roughly with the surface coverage of MOs, and depend sensitively on the type of MOs.

You can find many more details in the paper, published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A under the title, “Solvent-directed sol-gel assembly of 3-dimensional graphene-tented metal oxides and strong synergistic disparities in lithium storage.”

The short version is that the new method for creating a graphene-metal oxide compound results in large surface area for metal oxides, and that provides graphene with a larger playing field upon which to exercise itself, as described by lead author Morris Wang:

In essence, our approach helps to optimize the system-level performance by ensuring that most metal oxides are active,” said LLNL material scientist and author of the paper, Morris Wang.

Wang is emphatic that the wallflower reputation of metal oxides in energy storage is sorely mistaken:

Surprisingly, we saw the magnitude of capacity contributions from graphene is mainly determined by active materials and the type of MO bound onto the graphene surface.


Livermore is a national laboratory under the Energy Department’s research network, which has been vigorously tackling energy storage, and critical materials like graphene and metal oxides under the Obama Administration.

The Administration’s many programs initiatives include the Critical Materials Institute, which launched in 2013 under the Energy Innovation Hub umbrella with Livermore as a charter member.

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Image (cropped): “This schematic illustration shows metal oxides tented inside graphene. Many metal oxide/graphene composites offer unexpected capacity synergy that helps to increase storage capacity,” by Ryan Chen/LLNL.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Carl Raymond S

    When they talk about a material that is one molecule thick (i.e. essentially a 2D product – much much thinner than paper), what we need to know is how many square meters are required to produce a product.

    If a product requires an amount of graphene measured in kilograms, then give up now, because you’re talking about enough graphene to wallpaper a few cities.

    • wideEyedPupil

      not such a smart deduction, Carl. Graphene materials deposited in 1 atom thick layers already exist.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Great. Show me a kilogram of the stuff.
        Do you see? If it’s that thin, a kilogram is a HUGE amount to produce. It’s neither a huge volume, nor a huge mass, but it is a huge surface area.

        According to this article, graphene weighs 77 milligrams per square meter. So to produce just 1kg, you need to make 13,000 square metres of the stuff! (a piece 1 metre x 13 kilometres)

        I’m not saying that it’s not possible to make a battery of the stuff. I’m saying that in order to decide if it’s a good way to make a battery, we need to know how much graphene a battery needs. Quoting a figure in kg could be wildly misleading, unless the reader does the above calculation.

  • Todd

    Jeez, the never ending thanksobama crap from Tina. Just talk about technology. Dumb politicians have nothing to do with science.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sorry, Todd, but you got that wrong.

      The dumb politicians like those running Congress today have a lot to do with science. The block and unfund science.

      However the smart politicians like PBO support science and scientific research.

      See, both the smart and the dumb fvcks have something to do with science.

      • Todd

        Sorry, Bob, but you got it wrong. Politicians can surely waste money all over the place, but science marches on with or without them. Look, I get this this is a liberal place to hang out. But the sycophant-like nature of some is ridiculous. I’m certain that if this article was discussed during Bush tenure we wouldn’t have #thanksbush all over the place.

        I just like reading about the science. I know there is one or two other people here that agree.

        I encourage you to read this fine article regarding government spending on science. It might open your mind a little.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You want to us to read an article in a Murdoch owned paper and make believe it’s honest? Who do you think you’re kidding?

          One of the things that has made America great is government funded research. Government money and support has done the heavy lifting and provided the understanding that has allowed business to develop technology that has put us ahead.

          Right now we have a right wing Congress that wants to cut funding for everything and is doing nothing to make education affordable. If we leave these clowns in place we will turn into ‘just another country’.

          • Todd

            If you stay close minded like that you won’t learn anything new. Even if you don’t agree, maybe you’ll be able to make a better argument for your beliefs. Look, I’m here because I read everything. Even the NY Times.

            Is everything Republican and Democrat to you? And now on a tangent about the right wing keeping education expensive? You should do some research about why education is so damn expensive. I think you might find a massive Democrat money laundering scheme for teachers, unions, more government, etc. That’s not to say the Repubs are not involved in that to some extent.

            I’ll say it again, I don’t come here for the politics. I come for the science. You seem to have a reverse view.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Todd, you brought politics into the discussion.

            Feel free to not post comments about things which you do not want to discuss.

          • Todd

            Pretty sure that was Tina. And I’m pretty sure my posts were advocating removing politics.

          • wideEyedPupil

            sorry but when you have a republican congress that is in the pocket of fossil fuels and is effectively denialist on Climate Change that is one generation from destroying civilisation as we know it, not to mention take 90% of other species from the planet then, yeah it matters.

          • wideEyedPupil

            is America great? more poverty and hunger and abuse and violence than many developing countries and certainly more than most developed countries. great music, great science sure. American exceptionalism, gimme a break.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Try reading with comprehension. You might enjoy it.

          • wideEyedPupil

            “One of the things that has made America great”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Read it again.

            See if you can find the word “exceptional”.

            And then review some history. In a single generation the US went from a largely agrarian country to a leader in manufacturing, education and research.

          • Knetter

            And PBO isn’t exactly liberal, just because he’s black and has a D next to his name doesn’t make him a marxist. “Change you can believe in” what a joke, not saying things haven’t improved. More like Change at a snails pace!
            We went from a largely agrarian country to a leader in manufacturing, education and research. Ya and where do we stand now, definitely not at the front of the pack.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s a ridiculous comment.

            PBO isn’t a liberal because he isn’t a Marxist. Do you not understand that words have meanings?

            Change at a snail’s pace. Have you paid zero attention to how the Republican controlled Congress set out to make PBO a failed president and has done everything in their power to keep him from solving problems?

            Are you oblivious to what PBO has been able to achieve in spite of operating with both Congress and the Supreme Court working against him?

            You want the country to improve? Then help put people in Congress who are interested in making the country rather as opposed to protecting the wealth of the 1%.

        • Carl Raymond S

          In the US, there is a $7,500 tax credit for EV’s (with a sensible phase out clause per company). Here in Australia, no such credit. I see maybe one other EV on the roads every other day. I’m told that Tesla’s are a common sight in California.

          You have a company with a stake in the future (Tesla) and a phenomenal growth rate. We have nothing but auto factory shutdowns on the horizon. Coincidence? I think not.

          • Todd

            During my commute every day in San Diego I see many Teslas and Leafs. Probably even more Teslas than Leafs. Do you think those spending $100k on a Tesla only purchased because they save the equivalent of state taxes on the car? Or perhaps they simply understand that it’s a great piece of technology and an incredible car.

            In my case, I did buy the Leaf because of massive incentives all over the place with $10k back in taxes and another $8k from Nissan. Government incentives due cause small changes in behavior but they won’t be the cause of the EV revolution. Just look at the drop off in EV sales even though the incentives are the same as last year. All of us early adopters have recognized the limitations and are waiting for the next gen before buying. The technology must advance on its own or we won’t continue to support it.

          • wideEyedPupil

            and those early sales are paying for the next advancements, or do you know a way to finance multinational companies without income?

        • Epicurus

          The WSJ article is written by Matt Ridley who thinks global warming is a good thing and that renewable energy is what we need to fear.

          “[G]lobal warming is slow and mild and renewable energy is proving to be expensive and damaging to the environment as well as the economy.”

          A first class nutjob.

    • TinaCasey

      Right you are Bob. My first few hundred pieces for CleanTechnica left out the dumb stuff, as Todd puts it, but that context is important. Also we don’t seem to get that many complaints about it.

      • Matt

        A #thankUSAtaxPayers might have been better. Just as PO did not pick a solar company (pick under Bush), he did pick to fund this project. He did continue support for funding the Energy department’s research and the national labs, which not everyone does. And not all the work they do is toward RE.

      • NRG4All

        Perhaps the wording wasn’t the best, but a big advantage of government sponsored research is that there is less of a chance that the advancements will be patented by a private company and then when the product reaches the market, it will cost a lot more. That is one reason I applaud Tesla’s release of their patents to any company that is in earnest. A lot of private research would not be so generous.

      • Armchair Hydrogeologist

        I think there’s a strong case for government intervention in a lot of this stuff and Obama’s certainly done a lot more on that and then his predecessor. I worked at an ARPA-E funded company that would not have started but for the ARPA funds and I doubt that a Republican administration would have funded ARPA-E to the same level.

        Then again Texas is the undisputed leader in renewables by a wide margin. Just look at the renewable in ERCOT’S grid vs CAISO. And that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for CREZ being pushed by the Texas governators like Rick Perry.

        #thanks Rick Perry and your stylish glasses

        • Bob_Wallace

          It goes back further than Governor Goodhair.

          George W. was governor earlier –

          ” He put wind on the map in Texas. As Pat Wood, his former aide tells the story, he and Mr. Bush were walking through a hallway together and Mr. Bush pulled Wood aside and said “We like wind. Go get smart on it.”

          Mr. Bush was raised in West Texas. He knew a little about how the wind blows out there. His aides got busy and in 1999 Governor Bush signed into law a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) for Texas. The bill stated the goal of building 2000 Megawatts of installed wind capacity in Texas in 10 years and put in place policies to encourage wind power development. The RPS goal was surpassed in a huge way. Texas has had 9000 Megawatts of wind energy capacity installed in 11 years following Mr. Bush signing the bill.”

          • Armchair Hydrogeologist

            You’re right and it’s not just even W. Kenneth Lay of Enron also deserves some credit for CREZ too. Oddly enough most on the left would consider these three individuals as the evil axis trifecta of the environment. It’s the ultimate irony. If you add T Boone Pickens to the CREZ mix you have the liberal equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Environmental Apocalypse.

            It is so ironic that these villains have actually come up with something that actually does tremendous amount of things that have reduced our CO2 emissions.

            The jury is still out on the net effect of fracking because it is also giving us plentiful natural gas which has drastically reduced our CO2 emissions as well and provided us power plants with greater compatibility with the variable output of wind and solar until we figure out the storage problem.

            The overwhelming success of the CREZ and the 2005 law allowing for enhanced eminent domain Authority for long-distance transmission on the part of the federal government now seems like it’s paved the way for exploitation of renewables on a continental scale. We’re on a clear pathway … almost down to the 1990 Kyoto limits without even signing a thing . Maybe these guys aren’t as dumb as we think they are.


          • Bob_Wallace

            Even some of the most overall evil people have done something useful along the way. And some of the best have done one or more things they should not have. It’s, IMO, about net good/net bad.

            There’s an ex-Republican senator named Bob Livingston who was from one of the Carolinas and apparently lost his seat because he spoke about the dangers of climate change. A message his constituency did not want to hear.

            Since being voted out he’s spent his time and energy trying to educate people in the Republican party about climate change. According to Livingston many of the Republican congress members accept that climate change is real but feel that they have to remain public deniers in order to keep their seats.

            That probably means that they are allowing pro-renewable energy legislation to slip by. At least not passing anti-renewable legislation.

          • wideEyedPupil

            Reagan administration established the incontrovertible truth for Republican politics that “it’s never the peoples fault — always blame the government”. I guess for the climate catastrophe era that will be updated to “it’s never the peoples or the conservative (so called) politicians fault — always blame the weather and ‘natural cycles'”

          • Knetter

            Because they love to pad their wallets!

          • wideEyedPupil

            Burning fracked gas with fugitive emissions higher than 3% by volume is as bad as burning coal for electricity (Howarth et al Cornell Letter). There’s no doubt many unconventional gas fields have higher FEs than 3% now that NOAA and a consortium of ivy league universities have done direct atmospheric detection on methane levels. So apart from all the population health, aquifer, land and social destruction fracking is responsible for, it’s worse than burning coal and investment in it is effectively another delay on the RE learnings curve. This is a climate emergency we don’t have time for fossil gas.


          • Bob_Wallace

            We have the option of burning fracked gas without fugitive emissions.

            The EPA is now addressing this problem.

          • Epicurus

            I read somewhere that almost 20% of all oil and gas wells develop casing leaks (wish I had kept a copy of it like you do). That’s what worries me. Often they aren’t discovered until someone complains about the taste of the water.

      • wideEyedPupil

        I’d be fine with it if you put #yeahgreatobama hash tag on comments about his “all of the above” climate catastrophic policy on energy. people see partisanship commonalty when one side of the story is praised and the other side is omitted I suppose, though cleantechnica is about the praiseworthy side of his policy not the disastrous fossil fuel subsidising side, i acknowledge that.

        • Bob_Wallace

          So PBO is responsible for subsidizing fossil fuels?

          Rush tell you that?

  • atsmarin .

    Hello Tina, thanks for your excellent work. Any news on black phosphorus?

  • omar

    I just want to understand, the author say that the discovery will improve efficiency of Li battery, does this mean performance(energy density and recharging rate)? because the efficiency of the Li is already high over 90%.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Roundtrip efficiency above 90% for Lithium Ion batteries only exist on papers reporting lab findings and requires a very specific regime of charging and temperature control and timing as well as discharging. Potentially high thermal conductivity and high electron mobility and high surface area ratio will improve Lithium Ion batteries on all counts.

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