Graphene-Based Lithium-Ion Batteries

Alexandra Crerend
December 15, 2014

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2014


Fig. 1: Graphene is a single sheet of carbons atoms bonded hexagonally. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As energy producers begin to prioritize portability, efficiency, and environmental impact, improvements in energy storage are highly sought after. Graphene was only first isolated in 2004 after years of research and speculation, and its potential applications in the contexts of electronics and energy storage have been the subject of further research since its relatively recent discovery. [1] One of the most explored applications is in lithium-ion (Li-ion) storage. The literature strongly suggests that a hybrid solution utilizing graphene in conjunction with another technology, method, or material results in the most favorable outcomes.

Physical Attributes and Properties

Graphene, which is pure carbon, presents as a transparent, thin sheet. Despite its seemingly diminutive appearance, its properties are impressive. Graphene is the strongest material ever measured, as well as one of the thinnest at just one atom thick. [2] Graphene's properties make it an intriguing prospect as an alternative electrode material. One essential characteristic is surface area. Graphene's theoretical surface area has been reported to be as great as ~2630 m2/g, far superior to that of both graphite and SWCNTs, which are around 1315 m2/g and 10 m2/g. [3] Additionally, graphene's electrical conductivity far exceeds that of SWCNTs and is not highly susceptible to temperatures changes. This allows for highly mobile electrons, with electrons in grapheme having been measured to be ~200 times more mobile than electrons in silicon. This is significant as it translates into significant improvements in charge carrier speeds. Furthermore, graphene sheets (GNSs) are highly flexible when compared to the rigidity of graphite, and graphene can therefore be useful in flexible electronic devices. [4]

Fig. 2: Intercalation (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are prized for their lightweight nature and specific energy. It follows that there has been a electrode materials possessing characteristics such as rapid Li- ion diffusion and high electron mobility. [5] As mentioned above, graphene has tremendous physical properties - especially mechanical and thermal ones - which would be expected to produce superior battery performance when graphene-based anode materials are used. However, graphene sheets tend towards agglomeration due to van der Waals forces. These van der Waals forces may form graphite, thus inhibiting lithium intercalation. [6] To prevent this from happening, many studies have explored using metal oxides (in the form of nanowires/particles grown on graphene sheets). [7] For instance, one study in particular compared the performance of a graphene anode to a zinc-oxide nanowire graphene hybrid anode. The results (see Fig. 1 at right) demonstrate the positive synergistic effects of the zinc-oxide nanowires evenly distributed throughout the graphene sheet, thus preventing the agglomeration that inhibited Li-ion diffusion.

At present, graphite is the material of choice for Li-ion batteries due to its Li storage capability via Li intercalation between layers of graphite. However, this kind of battery's low capacity renders it unsuitable for use in instances such as the powering of electric vehicles. [8] Given the expected increase in the global electric vehicle market alone, further exploration of graphene-based Li-ion batteries warrants investment of time and resources.

© Alexandra Crerend. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A.K. Geim et al., "Electric Field Effect in Atomically Thin Carbon Films," Science 306, 666 (2004).

[2] A. K. Geim, "Graphene: Status and Prospects," Science 324, 1530 (2009).

[3] M. Pumera, "Electrochemistry of Graphene: New Horizons For Sensing and Energy Etorage," Chem. Rec. 9, 211 (2009).

[4] D. A. C. Brownson, D. K. Kampouris, and C. E. Banks, "An Overview of Graphene in Energy Production and Storage Applications," J. Power Sources 196, 4873 (2011).

[5] B. Scrosati, "Recent Advances in Lithium Ion Battery Materials," Electrochim. Acta 45, 2461 (2000).

[6] M. A. I. Shuve et al., "Investigation of Modified Graphene for Energy Storage Applications," ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 5, 7881 (2013).

[7] C. Xu, J. Sun and L. Gao, "Direct Growth of Monodisperse SnO2 Nanorods on Graphene as High Capacity Anode Materials For Lithium Ion Batteries," J. Mater. Chem. 20, 975 (2012)."

[8] Q. Li et al. "Graphene and Its Composites with Nanoparticles For Electrochemical Energy Applications," NanoToday 9, 668 (2014).