Brisbane battery company using UQ technology offers solution to storing solar energy to power homes

A Brisbane company believes it can change the face of Australia’s energy landscape with an eco-friendly, carbon-neutral cell. It is 70 times faster than a lithium ion battery and can be reused thousands of times.

Founder and CEO of Graphene Manufacturing Group Craig Nicol said the company’s graphene aluminum ion battery is a world-leading piece of technology developed by the University of Queensland (UQ).

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Graphene Manufacturing Group has developed its own process for producing Graphene powder from low-cost feedstocks.

He said the company is the only one in the world that makes its own graphene – a nanomaterial made of a single layer of dark carbon atoms, strong and an excellent electrical conductor – and has created the Technology for six years.

“There’s a technology here that I think will really help the energy transition, and so the Queensland government coming in and saying, ‘We want to push it forward’ is a big step forward,” ABC Radio’s Rebecca Levingston said.

“We need a variety of different types to be able to manage the large swings in electricity across the board.

“Our battery we think is very helpful, because we can charge our battery many times a day, while the lithium battery can only do it once.”

The rapidly expanding use of solar energy is putting pressure on Australia’s aging energy system as demand for traditional sources of power has increased in recent months.

Energy Corporation of NSW board member, Dr Alex Wonhas, said there was a huge need for further investment in technology such as batteries that could store the energy produced by solar cells. .

Opportunities for graphene batteries

Mr Nicol said their graphene battery is currently in a laboratory-scale manufacturing process but there are many opportunities for their wider applications in the future, including interest from drone and automotive applications. .

“A lot of companies want this kind of technology that we have,” he said.

“There are so many opportunities, not just what we think batteries need right now.

“There’s a lot of potential for this change to be fixed and sustainable.”

A headshot of a smiling man with short black hair, wearing a white shirt
Mr Nicol said the graphene battery is 70 times faster than a lithium battery and can be charged thousands of times.(Credit: Craig Nicol )

Mr Nicol said the company had not produced an AA battery but was working on a 2023 coin cell battery, used in child-safe remote controls.

“We’ve done tests and we don’t think there will be any safety issues with our batteries.

“These things will be affordable and you can give this table to your children at will, it will last a long time,” he said.

Mr Nicol also said that graphene sheets are the future and can be stored and used thousands of times.

“It’s not like a lithium battery, which usually takes 500 cycles, and then needs to be replaced,” he said.

“Ours is like a hybrid supercapacitor, which can be charged thousands of times.

“This is a big world lead because Stanford was the last time anyone did anything on aluminum batteries and ours is four times better than Stanford.”

Problems with lithium batteries

Mr Nicol said lithium batteries found in mobile phones, toys and cars were often faulty and there were safety issues associated with them.

An electric control panel with burners nearby
Mr Nicol said the lithium batteries available to homeowners can be very durable.(Provided by: Queensland Fire and Emergency Service)

“The aluminum atom used by our battery is more stable than the lithium atom and that’s why lithium often has problems,” he said.

“It’s been well made from the phones in cars and now some electric panels, but it’s a battery that doesn’t last when it comes in contact with water or air.

“But we need lithium batteries like no other time out there and we need them all in abundance to make this transformation work.”

Australia is a major exporter

Researcher from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology Dr. Xiaodan Huang said:

“Lithium is an important metal because raw prices are high,” he said.

“Australia is rich in graphene, aluminum and natural gas, which are cheap and easy to recycle.

“We are trying to provide another option for customers to choose as a technology and technology specialist for the Australian battery industry, because our components are imported from other business.”

Deepak Dubal from the Queensland University of Technology’s Center for Materials Science said Australia is one of the world’s largest suppliers of minerals used in both lithium batteries.

“Australia is the largest supplier of lithium in the world and the second largest supplier of cobalt,” he said.

Man in a white suit holding a bottle with a yellow lid and dark chemicals inside.
A Queensland company is trying to offer an alternative to lithium batteries.(Awarded: University of Queensland )

However, Dr Dubal said Australia had not really benefited from exporting lithium in batteries because it was only focusing on one sector in the six battery value chains.

“We’re not the biggest advantage in the lithium battery market because even though Australia has 50 per cent of the market share for lithium exports, we’re not making batteries ourselves,” he said.

“Australia alone benefits from 0.53 percent of the value chain.”

Dr Dubal predicted that within 10 years, Australia could be exporting raw lithium batteries and graphene.

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