Breakthrough in Graphene Research Could Provide ‘Clean and Limitless’ Energy
Technology| | By Jason Owen
If researchers are correct, a new discovery of an unusual property of graphene could provide “clean and limitless” energy in the future.
Graphene was first discovered in 2004. According to Wikipedia, it’s a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in an hexagonal lattice, and is the basic structural element of such known allotropes as charcoal or graphite. Of its many unusual properties, graphene is the strongest material ever tested, is nearly transparent, and efficiently conducts heat and electricity. Those last properties are what researchers at the University of Arkansas took a hard look at, and what they discovered could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in energy in decades.
While studying graphene at the university, Paul Thibado and his students observed graphene and studied the fluctuations, what’s known as Brownian motion, of the minuscule carbon layer. Graphene seemingly acts like ocean waves, with all the atoms moving in tandem, according to Research Frontiers.
“The atoms are shaking around and vibrating, but then every now and then this local, …let’s say convex, section of the [graphene] would flip its curvature over and become concave,” said Thibado in a video the university posted to YouTube.
If we place a charge on that ripple and it moves suddenly near a grounded conducting electrode, charge will flow in that conducting electrode, basically to screen the charge that’s moving toward it. If we add another electrode above it when it flipped back then the charge would flow, let’s say in a circuit.
Thibado said he and his students looked at a sample size of about 10 microns by 10 microns (20,000 of which could fit on the head of a pin), which could produce 10 microwatts of power continuously.
“So, wouldn’t that be great if you had this powering your watch, for example, you would never have to replace the batteries,” Thibado said. Thibado added that the limitless power would be the ideal source for something such as a pacemaker, or other “bio-implants.”
Thibado concluded by saying the technology wouldn’t necessarily create better batteries, but would be an alternative to batteries — a clean and limitless source of energy.
“If you could have a power source that you didn’t have to replace the battery for — it’s basically a battery alternative; I guess that’s the key thing — if you could have a battery alternative that you didn’t have to go and replace it, imagine all the things you could do,” Thibado said.
Thibado’s research is entering the next phase as he has applied for a U.S. patent on a device (Vibration Energy Harvester) that turns this movement into electricity.
Watch the full video. Would you like to see this form of clean, limitless energy used in our everyday lives?