Researchers at Swinburne University are progressing towards producing commercially viable, chemical-free, long-lasting, safe energy devices. The team is developing the Bolt Electricity Storage Technology (BEST) – a graphene oxide-based supercapacitor offering high performance and low-cost energy storage.
The team explains that this technology is environmentally friendly, and a patent was recently filed on it. It is reportedly on the brink of becoming a commercial prototype. Also stated was that investment in the technology's development will soon be under way through Graphene Solutions, a joint venture between graphite miner First Graphite Resources (FGR) and Australia-based electronics company Kremford.
The BEST project started forming in 2015, with a $375,000 AUD grant by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project for direct laser printing of thin ﬁlms of activated graphene oxide. The project as a whole aims to create a supercapacitor that could more efficiently collect, store and discharge the energy collected by solar cells. "Our centre has a history of making very good solar cells," the team says. "But there's a challenge in storing the energy generated from them. Sunshine changes all the time, depending on the weather, and that makes the current and voltage unstable. That's no good for batteries."
The BEST supercapacitor has an improved ability to quickly charge and discharge energy, and it can store signiﬁcant power for longer. It's safer than current battery technology, as it is able to function without overheating or resulting in explosions or ﬁres. The porous graphene surface stores charged atoms (ions) and moves them from one electrode to another.
"In this process, no ions are being generated or being killed," the researchers say. "They are maintained by charge and discharge, and are just moved around. Moving ions doesn't degrade the supercapacitor, so it can charge millions of times, in theory. Usually, a supercapacitor can work for at least 10,000 life-cycles."
It seems that making a commercial prototype is the next step, and Kremford representatives think that step is very close. "We're pretty sure we can handmake a prototype within eight weeks," they say. "But we need to be able to make it commercially". On completion of the project, Kremford will own 40% of Graphene Solutions; FGR will own the other 60%.
"Warwick Grigor of Far East Capital has just raised $3.5 million for FGR, $2 million of which is earmarked for this project," Mr Harford os kremford says. "We'll be working with Baohua to make the prototype over a two-year period". Licence and co-operation agreements were signed at the end of May.