Scientists from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) are reporting a breakthrough that could greatly boost the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, while enabling them to charge five times faster. The advance centers around graphene, and could one day lead to electric cars, phones and laptops that spend a lot less time plugged into a socket.

Graphene. You know may know it as that wonder material that promises to change the way we build roads, craft smartphone screens, kill bacteria or even keep our feet cool. Composed of a one-atom thick sheet of carbon, graphene is thin and highly flexibility, strength and chemical stability. It also conducts electricity 100 times more effectively than copper and moves electrons 140 times faster than silicon (good for fast-charging).

These attributes have drawn the attention of scientists searching for materials that can take lithium-ion batteries to the next level. And some promising advances have been made, with researchers mixing graphene with other materials like silicon, copper and asphalt to produce batteries that demonstrate significant performance leaps in the lab.

Now, scientists at SAIT, together with a team from the Seoul National University's School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, have come up with a way of mixing graphene with silica to produce popcorn-like balls of graphene through a process called chemical vapor deposition. These great balls of graphene were used as a material for the anode and where also uniformly coated onto the nickel-rich cathode as a protective layer. This layer serves the purpose of both containing nasty side reactions and offering extra conductive pathways.

The team says that based on its research, a full lithium-ion battery incorporating graphene balls in this way could cut charging times from more than an hour to just 12 minutes. It should also enable a 45 percent boost in capacity and maintain a highly stable temperature of 60 degree Celsius (140 ° F). Stable operating temperatures are a key concern when it comes to powering electric vehicles.

"Our research enables mass synthesis of multifunctional composite material graphene at an affordable price," said Dr. Son In-hyuk, who led the research on behalf of SAIT. "At the same time, we were able to considerably enhance the capabilities of lithium-ion batteries in an environment where the markets for mobile devices and electric vehicles is growing rapidly. Our commitment is to continuously explore and develop secondary battery technology in light of these trends."

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: Samsung