Graphene, the material of the future. How will it change our lives?

Less than two decades after the discovery of graphene, this innovative material has already seen a multitude of applications in the energy field. What does the future hold for us?

Since the day the two physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received the Nobel Prize for their research on graphene, only eleven years have passed. A very short period in which industry has further accelerated research on this innovative material. Discovered by accident in 2004, the study of graphene has given rise to a multitude of potential and real applications in the energy field.

The applications of graphene, the energy field

Graphene is basically a carbon structure; it differs from graphite (random structure of carbon atoms) and diamond (ordered structure of carbon atoms) in that it is an ordered structure in only two dimensions. In fact, graphene consists of a single monoatomic layer of carbon: a “sheet” the thickness of a single atom. This gives graphene extraordinary properties of very high mechanical strength without loss of flexibility.

Le applicazioni del grafene, il campo energetico

The applications are indeed many. From the first transistor worth precisely the Nobel Prize, to the construction of membranes for water desalination, via thermal and optical properties. And these are just some of the fields of use; the future will surely hold surprises for us, and graphene could enter our daily lives, much more than we can imagine today.

What will interest us most, however, and probably disrupt our daily lives, will be its application in the energy field, from the construction of photovoltaic cells with far more efficient capturing surfaces than today’s silicon, to the installation of batteries and storage systems in our homes and in off-grid systems.

OffgridSun and graphene, the advantages of choice

This latest innovation has already entered powerfully into our company, which has decided to bet on this technology, through graphene supercapacitors or EDLC (electric double-layer capacitor). This product, currently in its first generation and already commercially available, allows for a quantum leap in energy storage, with much higher efficiencies and average life than lithium and, of course, classic lead-acid batteries.

OffgridSun has already managed to install these supercapacitors on the first ten photovoltaic systems completely disconnected from the grid, with considerable customer satisfaction. In some cases, even replacing old lead-acid batteries. Mountain cabins, environmental monitoring systems, are just some of the realities where supercapacitors have proven to be the best choice for reliability and performance, compared to previous technologies.

The difference with other batteries

Coupled with photovoltaic charging systems, the supercapacitors that we are currently already using and supplying in our systems, can quickly reach full charge with very high currents (up to 100 A DC) and therefore very short times.

In addition, unlike lead-acid batteries, the depth of discharge reaches 90% of the total capacity. This means that if 5 kWh of storage is purchased and installed, it will be usable to almost full capacity; something unthinkable with older lead-acid technologies where already a depth of discharge of 50% puts the long-term efficiency of the accumulator at risk. And unlike modern lithium-ion batteries, graphene supercapacitors can store much more energy for the same physical size.

Another big advantage surely is the useful life of these new energy accumulators, which seems to be in the range of 20-25 years. An element that strengthens the commercial argument that often gets bogged down by initial installation costs. In fact, this type of battery boasts charge-discharge cycles of 50,000 and more.

Graphene and electric mobility

All this considered, it comes naturally to think of graphene applications in electric vehicles, where charging times (as well as the lack of a real widespread infrastructure) are to date one of the main reasons why we still choose endothermic engines for long hauls.

It is very recent news that the very supercar manufacturer Lamborghini has chosen graphene accumulators for its new “Third Millennium” concept car. A three-year project that involved the Italian automaker and MIT. The Chinese automotive giant GAC also announced that through the AION brand, it will produce from September 2021, the AION V model with graphene battery that will recharge in as little as 8 minutes, also a thanks to the lack of chemical reactions that distinguishes this technology. This short charging time, if extendable to the majority of the electric car fleet on the road, could really affect the futility of a widespread charging infrastructure in the future.

“Third Millennium” the graphene supercar developed by Lamborghini in collaboration with MIT.


Everything therefore seems to bode well that the discovery of this new material will bring real changes in our lives, but what will be of most interest to our company and others operating in the energy sector will be the development of new accumulators that are increasingly high-performance and capable of storing energy in a very short time.

There remains, of course, the issue of environmental impact and impact on human health, especially because of the alleged ability of the monoatomic layers of graphene, to be able to penetrate organic tissues. Very important issues that profoundly affect new technologies. Fortunately, in recent years, sensitivity to these issues is central to debates about technological change, and this will ensure that “sustainability” is at the heart of any choice.

However, we must always remember that emissions from coal-fired power plants are still among the very first causes of death on the planet. Therefore, it is good to start experimenting with new technologies in energy, for a future free of fossil fuels and as energy independent as possible. The future is therefore much closer than we can imagine.

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