Energy storage - the need for better batteries
Batteries use electrochemical reactions to store electrical energy for later use. They are made from two electrodes: a negative terminal (cathode), a positive terminal (anode), and an electrolyte.
Compared to liquid fossil fuels, batteries store lower amounts of energy for the same weight or volume of material. This, along with the cost, availability of raw materials, and relatively slow recharge rate are some of the key challenges facing battery technology today.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently the gold standard for electricity storage. They are used in a variety of devices, including mobile electronics and electric cars. The future use of batteries in these devices will demand higher storage capacities and faster charging speeds, as well as lower costs.
Nanomaterials can help the design of better batteries by providing improved materials for cathodes and anodes. The high surface area of nanomaterials such as graphene, helps to increase contact between cathodes, anodes and the electrolyte, making it possible to charge batteries faster.
Carbon nanotubes can be used to create strong, durable electrodes with high mechanical integrity, while maintaining their flexibility. Scientists are also using nanomaterials to reduce the wear and tear within batteries, to ensure they retain their capacity over many charge cycles.
Nanomaterials may also help to make battery technologies other than lithium-ion batteries economically and technically viable. Battery technologies rely on abundant raw materials, so sodium-ion batteries could be a suitable replacement since sodium is more available than lithium.