Energy Update: Can We Develop a Battery that is Self Charging?

Carbon-based graphene was the topic around water coolers in materials science departments in the month of March as researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University claimed to have invented a graphene-based battery running solely on ambient heat. If the results can be duplicated by other laboratories then these researchers may have found a new technology for self-charging portable devices.

What is graphene?  Discovered in 2004, graphene is a carbon-based material made from atoms bound together by double-electron bonds. It forms in thin films one atom in thickness. The picture below shows individual graphene crystals.

This electron microscopic picture shows individual graphene crystals. Researchers are exploring methods to develop graphene-based chip technology. Source: University of Houston

Graphene based ultrafast transistors would replace silicon-based technology. Graphene is seen as a potential high performance material replacing carbon fiber in avionics and aerospace construction.

In the Hong Kong study researchers did control tests on their graphene-based battery to ensure that the sustained energy output from the device was not coming from a chemical reaction. The jury remains out on this claim but if it is proven to be a workable technology then we may have a new power source for artificial organs that would be sustained by the heat generated within a body, or electronic devices that would continuously generate energy through interaction with a warm environment.

We’ll keep our eye on this one and let you know what the research community discovers when they attempt to duplicate these experimental results.


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...

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