Dr Craig Dawson – Application Manager at the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre shines a light on how, as the UK looks to build a globally leading carbon neutral economy, The University of Manchester is providing an innovation flagship for energy storage using graphene.
- There hasn’t been a significant breakthrough in battery performance in a long time, with the lithium batteries currently used by electric vehicles, being discovered in the late 1970s.
- The application of graphene and related 2D materials to improving energy storage in devices such as batteries and supercapacitors could help change all that – and also help power the UK economy.
- This would not only help support the Government’s ambition to become carbon neutral but it could be a game changer in the way we use and store energy in the future.
- Continued UK government research funding into this exciting field could be fast-tracked into world-beating competiveness.
Innovation in battery and energy storage technology hasn’t really seen any major breakthroughs since the 1970s but the application of graphene and related 2D materials, collectively dubbed as the ‘graphenes family’ could help change all that. Manchester has built up a diverse portfolio of energy storage technologies which use graphene and other next generation 2D materials. Continued UK government research funding into this field can be fast-tracked into world-beating competiveness. But as a sector we need to know that the funding that is already out there is going to stay available in a politically uncertain future. Investors need to be able to have the confidence to invest when the time comes for the market to get involved.
The University of Manchester is providing an innovation flagship for energy storage research and production using graphene and this comes at a time when the UK is looking to build a globally-leading carbon neutral economy.
What is Graphene?
Graphene all began when this single layer material was first isolated at The University of Manchester in 2004 by professors Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, who were later awarded Nobel Prizes in Physics.
Subsequently, The University of Manchester is now home to two world-class, multi-million pound centres of specialist research into graphene – The National Graphene Institute and the application-focused Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC).
The GEIC is home to experienced innovation experts working on how best to incorporate graphene into batteries and similar energy storage devices. By combining our knowledge of these new ultrathin materials with the formulation and engineering experience based at The University of Manchester, we are confident of replicating many of the performance gains of graphene into energy storage.
However, graphene integration into batteries and related devices is complex. More industry-focused development, coupled with continued UK government research funding is required to achieve the breakthroughs needed to deliver the long anticipated revolution into energy storage technology.
Pioneers in research
Manchester academics have led on pioneering research in this area and have recently secured funding from the UK EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Council) for further investigation into energy storage technology – from this lab work a pilot-scale production will be explored in the GEIC. It’s early days, but this project is anticipated to be the first step in volume production in the UK of new materials to supply supercapacitor device manufacturers.
The Manchester model
Led by James Baker, CEO of graphene@manchester, The University of Manchester has adopted a lab-to-market approach in the creation of, and the roll out of graphene technology. Working closely with commercial partners such as First Graphene Ltd – an Australian-based business, The University of Manchester is looking to develop a graphene-hybrid material for use in supercapacitors. These powerful new generation energy storage devices can be used in applications ranging from electric vehicles to elevators and cranes.
The Manchester model has the potential not only to deliver a long awaited breakthrough in energy storage technology but also the opportunity to anchor our know-how to help ensure we deliver competitive advantage to the wider UK economy. This would not only help support the government’s ambition to become carbon neutral, but it could be a game changer in the way we use and store energy in the future.