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A step closer for graphene-coated anodes

By Mary Page Bailey |

A new collaboration between PPG (Pittsburgh, Pa.; www.ppg.com), SiNode Systems (Chicago, Ill.; www.sinodesystems.com) and Raymor Industries (Boirsbriand, Que., Canada; www.raymor.com) aims to accelerate commercialization for battery anodes made of a silicon-graphene composite. “These materials can achieve significantly higher capacities than current graphite-based anodes, allowing for higher cell-level energy density,” explains Kurt Olson, PPG corporate research fellow. In electric-vehicle batteries, these traits lead to lighter-weight batteries and increase the distance vehicles can travel on a single charge. “Traditionally, the addition of silicon causes a decrease in a battery’s cycle life because the silicon expands during charging and breaks into tiny particles that are no longer effective,” says Olson. Coating silicon particles with a layer of graphene effectively increases the life of batteries.

SiNode produces few-layer graphene nanoplatelets from methane via an atom-by-atom, “bottom-up” plasma process. The plasma’s high temperature breaks the methane into carbon atoms and hydrogen, and in a specially designed reactor, the carbon atoms are combined into graphene as they cool. “This continuous manufacturing process from a low-cost carbon source results in consistent-quality graphene,” says Olson.

According to the research team, graphene produced in this manner possesses composition, morphology and uniformity that make it better suited to improve anode performance when compared to other graphene sources. Graphene produced via traditional “top-down” batch processes require several liquid dispersion steps, as well as purification, resulting in more waste and product variability when compared to the single-step approach. Olson expects the plasma-based process to be quite cost-competitive as production volumes increase.

In order to lower battery costs and increase the cycle life of batteries containing the silicon-graphene electrodes, the team is simultaneously working to scale up the graphene production process, optimize the particle-coating process and develop stable dispersion technologies that are tailored for the anode composition.

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