Graphene gives boost to Edison's Nickel-Iron battery

Graphene gives boost to Edison's Nickel-Iron battery

Summary: Graphene has been used to revive a rechargeable battery technology invented by Thomas Edison (yes, that Thomas Edison) more than 100 years ago in a collision of technologies that could prove very fruitful.Edison’s idea was that the batteries would power electric vehicles, but the largely technology fell out of use in the 1970s, because although it is very durable, the charge and discharge times are very slow.

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TOPICS: Graphene
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Graphene has been used to revive a rechargeable battery technology invented by Thomas Edison (yes, that Thomas Edison) more than 100 years ago in a collision of technologies that could prove very fruitful.

Edison’s idea was that the batteries would power electric vehicles, but the largely technology fell out of use in the 1970s, because although it is very durable, the charge and discharge times are very slow. Those Edison batteries in existence today are mostly used to store surplus energy from wind farms and solar energy arrays.

But researchers at Stanford University, led by chemistry professor Hongjie Dai, have dramatically improved the battery’s performance adding graphene to the mix, resulting in nickel-iron battery that can be fully charged in about two minutes and discharged in less than 30 seconds.

"We have increased the charging and discharging rate by nearly 1,000 times," said Stanford graduate student Hailiang Wang, lead author of the study. "We've made it really fast."

"In conventional electrodes, people randomly mix iron and nickel materials with conductive carbon," Wang explains in this press release. "Instead, we grew nanocrystals of iron oxide onto graphene, and nanocrystals of nickel hydroxide onto carbon nanotubes."

This produced strong bonds between the metal and the carbon nanomaterials, which allow the charges to move quickly between the electrodes and the external circuit.

The only problem is that the improved charge and discharge speeds mean that battery is now more fragile: "It doesn't have the charge-discharge cycling stability that we would like," Professor Dai said. "Right now it decays by about 20 percent over 800 cycles. That's about the same as a lithium-ion battery. But our battery is really fast, so we'd be using it more often. Ideally, we don't want it to decay at all."

Dai sees a use for the new Nickel-Iron battery is large scale power storage for the grid; as a boost for lithium-ion batteries in cars, and potentially for the military, where the rapid discharge of power could prove useful.

The results are published in the June 26 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Topic: Graphene

Lucy Sherriff

About Lucy Sherriff

Lucy Sherriff is a journalist, science geek and general liker of all things techie and clever. In a previous life she put her physics degree to moderately good use by writing about science for that other tech website, The Register. After a bit of a break, it seemed like a good time to start blogging about weird quantum stuff for ZDNet. And so here we are.

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3 comments
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  • I sell and install traditional Nickel Iron Batteries, and this is a huge announcement. There are some more hurdles to overcome, but this should be considered a significant breakthrough announcement. Ideally, the chemistry of this battery would provide unlimited charge and discharge cycles because there is no sulphate buildup that is seen in lead acid batteries.

    If you have any questions about the current Nickel Iron Battery (Ni-Fe) technology, please drop me a line...

    Info@IronEdison.com
    Brandon W.
    IronBran
  • I seem to remember from studies of batteries many, many years ago that Edison cells' only real virtue was their longevity: as in years and years and YEARS. They simply do not degrade significantly over time. This is why they were, and still are used in remote locations to power railway signalling equipment; and they are VERY heavy. The implication is that their energy density is very low, and, consequently, not suitable for portable applications.
    The above-mentioned attributes would also explain their use in wind-farm and solar-energy storage applications.
    But everything you have presented here indicates that graphene is working no magic when it comes to keeping the Edison cell's attributes at all intact. I suggest you go back to the source(s) of the news of this 'breakthrough' for comment.

    Perhaps Brandon W. could weigh back in with further clarification.

    Warmest regards...
    bakerdriver
  • IronBran, what are the cost implications of such a battery? If the performance is similar to Lithium Ion but costs a fraction as much to manufacture, then it is indeed a brave new world for intermittent power solutions.
    anonymous