When CES was still a live event, we spoke to the guys at Real Graphene about how they would blow everyone away with their breakthrough battery technology. They’ve been hardworking little beavers ever since, and not just because their supply chains were brutalized during the pandemic. They have partnered with a company called Elecjet, blocked patents, successfully ran their first crowdfunding campaign, and are well on their way through their second campaign.
What is so great about graphs anyway?
The great thing is that graphene-based batteries charge very quickly. We tried Elecjet’s upcoming Apollo Ultra and it can easily charge its 10,000 mAh capacity in half an hour. This is really true when you find that at this capacity, most batteries take a few hours to fully charge. The Apollo Ultra’s performance depends a bit on a 100 watt charger, but the graphene cathode does the heavy lifting here.
OK, but how does a graphene battery work anyway?
Relax, we were just about to do it. First, let’s do a quick refresher on how lithium-ion batteries work. In short, a battery has two main compartments separated by a porous membrane. When you charge a battery, electrons are drawn from one compartment to the other. The membrane prevents these electrons from drifting back to their natural home on the home page. When the battery circuit is closed by a device that needs some juice, those electrons have a way back. So these electrons go through all the hoops they need to get back to where they started, creating the wonderful electrical current we need to watch cat videos on YouTube.
Sdk16420 / Creative Commons
Now these electrons have to cool down somewhere on both sides. Traditionally, the negatively charged anode side of a lithium-ion battery uses graphite. It’s carbon, it’s stable, and it’s just clinging enough to the electrons to stay there, but not so clinging that they can’t be withdrawn. The anode is the side that pulls the electrons when charging a battery.
Graphene is a single monomolecular layer of graphite. Because of this structure, graphene is even more stable than graphite. It offers a unique grid in which electrons can be deposited above and below the sheet without hitting other sheets as with graphite. Graphene can be 70% more conductive than copper, which greatly improves the battery’s charging performance.
Sooooo … fast loading? That’s it?
What a cynic! The other side of using graphs is its extended overall life cycle. Since graphene is more stable than graphite, it degrades much more slowly. When you charge and discharge a battery, the media that hold the electrons to the anode and cathode are destroyed a bit because they are constantly pulling electrons out of them. The carbon atoms in graphene have super-strong bonds that Elecjet says will allow the Apollo Ultra battery to run in excess of 2,500 power cycles compared to the usual 500. While this remains to be seen in everyday use, a 5-fold reduction in battery waste could make the initial novelty of fast charging very much well in the shade.
How long does it take for graphene batteries to take power?
The Apollo Ultra is Elecjet’s fourth graphene battery, but there is little evidence that other manufacturers are taking the same steps. Graph-based fast charging is reaching a point where it can represent a significant competitive advantage in a sea of similar battery packs. The proliferation of this technology depends on other companies realizing the benefit and starting to incorporate it into their products. Even when this decision is made, it can take small players a few years to implement this strategy. It may still be some time before it is even registered on the radar of the major manufacturers. It’s really up to these big guys to bring graphene battery pack production to a scale that will lead to widespread adoption. We may not even notice when it happens – after all, we just see our batteries charge faster. It will be a matter of years before graphene batteries become popular, but we’ll be on the lookout for them.
Graphene has been studied for years and has shown great promise. Advances in battery technology are few and far between, so it will be exciting to see them actually hit the market. While it’s great news for those of us looking for a way to quickly charge phones, laptops, and tablets, there are larger apps that you should keep an eye out for. It’s easy to see how a graphene-based portable smartphone battery will eventually evolve into large commercial batteries for solar and wind power generation.