Right now there are at least as many devices that require batteries as rely on an outlet around me, so it is not surprising that batteries are continually a focus of research somewhere. Any means to decrease costs, improve efficiency, or utilize safer materials is of great interest. Researchers at Kansas State University have recently examined how layered nanomaterials, including graphene, will perform as electrodes in batteries.
Graphene is an atom-thick plane of carbon with many extraordinary properties, and sometimes more properties appear as layers of graphene are stacked together. The researchers created stacks of graphene from two to ten layers thick using two different substrates. The stacks grown on copper performed worse than those grown on nickel, likely because the nickel substrate promotes a well-defined lattice pattern. The researchers also tested tungsten disulfide nanosheets, which are three atoms thick instead of one, like graphene. These nanosheets react with the lithium ions in a battery quite differently than most other materials, which is why it has not been popular in the past as an electrode material.
Another, significant part of this research deals with how the graphene sheets were rapidly formed at atmospheric pressures, instead of within a vacuum. If graphene ever makes its way into commercial batteries, such a production method should be very useful.