GMG produces first prototype G-Al pouch
500 mAh graphene-aluminum pouch makes initial success Metal Tech News – September 13, 2023
Last updated 9/18/2023 at 2:11pm
Exploring an alternate battery technology that would lessen the demand for lithium and, in turn, help enable the transition to clean renewable energy, Graphene Manufacturing Group Ltd. announced the successful production of an initial 500 milliampere-hour graphene-aluminum prototype pouch cell – one of, if not the first of, its kind.
Easily regarded as the dominant force for portable power needs, lithium-ion batteries have held a grip on accessible energy for decades. Cheap, reliable, and with a relatively simple chemistry that has not needed much changing for the last fifty years; however, lithium has suddenly hit a wall-too many people need them now, and there is not enough to go around.
With advancements in materials sciences and the squeeze on the various elements that comprise a typical lithium-ion battery, manufacturers and scientists alike have been seeking new materials and their ensuing chemistries to last longer, charge faster, and remain fairly inert to power the electric vehicle craze that has swept up the world.
One of these contenders is graphene aluminum-ion batteries. Using graphene and aluminum as electrode materials, these batteries reportedly have an energy density of 150-160 watt-hours per kilogram, compared to the more matured 260-270 Wh/kg lithium battery. But where it lacks in output right now, it makes up for in lifespan, potentially reaching three times longer longevity (meaning more power cycles before it begins to degrade – over 2,000, according to Graphene Manufacturing Group) as well as up to 70 times faster charging speed, supposedly reaching full charge in as little as five minutes.
Based out of Australia, Graphene Manufacturing Group is a clean-tech company that began seeking ways to produce clean graphene. Instead of mining graphite, GMG makes its graphene by cracking methane.
Using a proprietary process, the company has developed a method to produce high-quality, low-cost, scalable, tunable, and no or low-contaminant graphene.
While its graphene can be used for a wide range of industries, the GMG's initial focus has been on developing applications for energy saving and energy storage solutions, and with a pilot plant for producing its graphene aluminum-ion batteries, its vision is coming to fruition.
Partnering with the University of Queensland in mid-2021, GMG has been working closely with the university's technology and consulting arm, UniQuest, to advance its possible game-changing battery technology.
"Aluminum-ion battery with graphene electrodes could transform the existing rechargeable battery market, dominated by lithium-ion," said UniQuest CEO Dean Moss. "Lithium-ion batteries demand the extraction of rare earth materials using large amounts of water and are processed with chemicals that can potentially harm the environment. This project has real potential to provide the market with a more environmentally friendly and efficient alternative."
After years of development, the first prototypes have begun to roll out, proving that the chemistry is viable, and all that needs to be done now is scale it up.
For context, most common smartphone battery sizes fall anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 mAh. And seeing how most people use their phones all the time, many have become quite familiar with their battery's longevity.
Factor in that lithium-ion batteries have had nearly 50 years to reach those outputs, and 500 is pretty impressive for a first draft.
One of the other more impressive speculations regarding graphene aluminum-ion batteries is its theoretical maximum energy density.
Used to measure how much energy a battery can hold in proportion to its weight, lithium-ion batteries are estimated to cap out around 380 to 460 Wh/kg, with nowadays lithium-ion batteries hitting between 260 and 270 Wh/kg.
Whereas, according to GMG, the theoretical limit of its graphene-aluminum batteries reaches upwards of 1,050 Wh/kg – meaning more power in a similar size and weight.
Combine this bigger "gas tank" with faster recharge times, and graphene-aluminum batteries become much more appealing.
GMG says that its pouch is a significant development, as it shows that it has matured the battery electro-chemistry and assembly techniques.
Made with 10 layers of graphene-coated cathode and aluminum foil anode, GMG says its next step is to optimize the assembly techniques of its prototype. By doing this, it hopes to achieve a repeatable storage capacity of over 500 mAh cells in order to conduct a variety of standard testing conditions for market comparisons.
With that, it further intends to pursue producing cells with over 20 double-layers to get a storage capacity of 1,000 mAh through employing various production methods like an automatic coating machine, cathode laser cutting equipment, and a semi-automatic stacker, to achieve reproducible cells for validation trails.
As part of a joint development agreement with Rio Tinto, GMG aims to achieve a repeatable capacity of 1,000 mAh by the first half of 2024 and then produce this pouch cell at scale by the first half of 2025.