Simple new method makes graphene “paint” possible

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Researchers have found a simple way to make graphene disperse in water, paving the way for graphene-based inks or paints

 Graphene may be versatile, but there’s one thing it’s not all that good at – dispersing in water. Now, researchers at Umeå University have found a relatively simple way to do it. Graphene oxide is a different form of the material that can make for stable water dispersion, which can then be used as a kind of graphene paint.

Graphene is essentially a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms, arranged in a hexagonal pattern. This deceptively simple material has a range of useful properties – it’s incredibly lightweight, thin and flexible, but still strong. It’s also an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, so it’s turning up in everything from electronics to water filters to clothing.

Ideally, one useful way to get graphene into the right configurations could involve dispersing it in water. This solution could then be painted or sprayed onto a surface to make, for example, supercapacitor electrodes or conductive coatings.

The problem is that graphene and similar forms of carbon, like graphite and carbon nanotubes, are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water. They can be made to disperse using harsh organic solvents or mechanical treatments, but the former is toxic and the latter can introduce defects.

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High-density hybrid powercapacitors: A new frontier in the energy race

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Toomen’s high-density hybrid power capacitors offer the density of lithium batteries, but with much greater charge and discharge rates, a massive range of safe operating temperatures, enormous lifespans and no danger of explosion

Hybrid “power capacitors” that can store as much energy as lithium batteries, but with much higher charge/discharge rates, a huge range of safe operating temperatures, super-long lifespans and no risk of explosion are already in production, says a small Belgian company that’s been testing them and selling them for some time.

Chinese family-owned company Shenzhen Toomen New Energy is tough to find, at least on the English-language internet, but Belgian electronic engineer Eric Verhulst bumped into Toomen representatives on a tiny stand at the Hannover Messe expo in Germany back in 2018, while looking for next-gen battery solutions for an electric mobility startup he was running.

The Toomen team made a hell of a claim, saying they’d managed to manufacture powerful supercapacitors with the energy density of lithium batteries. “Of course, that’s an unbelievable claim,” Verhulst told us. “It’s a factor of 20 better than what, for example, Maxwell had at the time. So I took my time, went over there, looked at their tests, did some tests myself, and I got convinced this is real. So at the end of 2018, we made an agreement to become their exclusive partner.”

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