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Graphene - is there anything it can’t do?
Probably. It'll never score a top ten hit, but following a discovery by researchers at Monash University, the wonder material has added yet another string to its bow.
The team of scientists has developed a method of using the material to recharge batteries at lightning speed, with the mere addition of a splash of tap water.
According to Dr Dan Li, the lead researcher, the graphene discovery means that with some tweaking it could be possible to charge up an iPhone in seconds, or even less.
This means performing on par with lithium ion batteries, as well as the potential for it to last indefinitely.
Having been discovered by two scientists at the University of Manchester mucking around with sticky tape, the Nobel prize winning material’s astounding properties have already seen it used in some fascinating ways.
For example it could be used to create modulators for ‘extremeband’ internet speeds, or a new generation of supercapacitors, while IBM has already begun to use graphene in computer chip design.
And now the material could be used in energy storage applications thanks to its extremely high surface area and conductivity.
These properties are a result of breaking down cheap and readily available graphite into one atom thick layers.
However, as the researchers were aware, problems arise when the material is restacked.
According to Dr Li, when the material is combined into a macrostructure it loses much of its surface area and ceases to behave like graphene any more.
However, they were able to solve this problem by simply adding water.
By keeping the graphene moist the team was, crucially, able to prevent the sheets from restacking, meaing its original properties remain.
The resulting graphene gel nanomaterial has a range of potential applications in energy storage, holding a large amount of charge and expending it at high speeds.
Dr Li believes that it could be beneficial for more effective delivery of renewable energy sources, and could push large scale adoption of electrical vehicles.
There are also possible uses for the gel in water purification membranes, and biomedical devices and sensors.