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.
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.