A research collaboration has led to the discovery of Edge Functionalized Graphene (EFG), a form of graphene which is both highly conductive and processable, and promises to improve the cost and efficiency of lithium-ion batteries.
Researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) in New South Wales, in collaboration with scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science and the Australian National Fabrication Facility, made the discovery. They were led by Professor David Officer and Professor Gordon Wallace.
EFG is comprised of nano platelets with excellent potential as a valuable carbon additive for a variety of electrochemical devices, according to the researchers. The team said these unique properties mean that the materials will be useful in energy storage, both for batteries and supercapacitors, as well as in composites for use as sensors, reinforcement materials or non-metallic conductors.
The researchers are now working with private company Sicona Battery Technologies to demonstrate how to scale up production. Sicona has made binding agreements with UOW for the acquisition of its intellectual property related to EFG.
“Like many materials, finding a way to exploit the extraordinary properties of graphene in useful applications is critically dependent on making the graphene processable,” said Officer. “With EFG, we have been able to not only create a process that produces a unique graphene that can be used as a powder, dough, paste or dispersion, but a process that we believe is commercially scalable. Our commercial partners Sicona have recognized this.”
Sicona CEO Christiaan Jordaan said that the new material will enable it to improve its battery materials’ electrical conductivity, and therefore quality. “It’s a simple and highly scalable production process that yields this unique EFG material, we believe it has a bright future in the rapidly growing battery market,” he said.
EFG was initially discovered back in 2017, but researchers subsequently had to determine what the material “actually is” in order to simplify the manufacturing process, Wallace said.
“Taking amazing discoveries out of the research lab and into industry is a complex process. Often, we do not have common interests nor agree on the best way forward,” he added.
The technology is patent pending in 12 international jurisdictions. Its proponents said it will be “further enhanced” under a two-year research and collaboration agreement between Sicona and UOW focused on process scale-up and application of the graphene material in batteries, as well as a thermal conductivity enhancer.
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