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Improving Sodium-Ion Batteries with Mechanically Robust Nanocellular Graphene

New method for crack-free nanocellular graphene helps improve the performance and flexibility of Na-Ion batteries

by Tohoku University
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A new study, recently published in Advanced Materials, details a novel method for developing crack-free nanocellular graphene that has promising applications in sodium-ion battery development.

Ever since its discovery in 2004, graphene has been revolutionizing the field of materials science and beyond. Graphene comprises two-dimensional sheets of carbon atoms bonded into a thin hexagonal shape with a thickness of one atom layer. This gives it remarkable physical and chemical properties. Despite its thinness, graphene is incredibly strong, lightweight, flexible, and transparent. It also exhibits extraordinary electrical and thermal conductivity, high surface area, and impermeability to gasses. From high-speed transistors to biosensors, it boasts an unrivaled versatility in applications.

Nanocellular graphene (NCG) is a specialized form of graphene that achieves a large specific surface area by stacking multiple layers of graphene and controlling its internal structure with a nanoscale cellular morphology.

NCG is coveted for its potential to improve the performance of electronic devices, energy devices, and sensors. However, its development has been stymied by defects that occur during the manufacturing process. Cracks often appear when forming NCG, and scientists are looking for new processing technologies that can fabricate homogeneous, crack-free, and seamless NCGs at appropriate scales.

"We discovered that carbon atoms rapidly self-assemble into crack-free NCG during liquid metal dealloying of an amorphous Mn-C precursor in a molten bismuth," says Won-Young Park, a graduate student at Tohoku University.

Dealloying is a processing technique that exploits the varying miscibility of alloy components in a molten metal bath. This process selectively corrodes certain components of the alloy while preserving others.

Park and his colleagues demonstrated that NCGs developed by this method exhibited high tensile strength and high conductivity after graphitization. Moreover, they put the material to the test in a sodium-ion battery (SIB).

"We used the developed NCG as an active material and current collector in a SIB, where it demonstrated a high rate, long life, and excellent deformation resistance. Ultimately, our method of making crack-free NCG will make it possible to raise the performance and flexibility of SIBs—an alternative technology to lithium-ion batteries for certain applications, particularly in large-scale energy storage and stationary power systems where cost, safety, and sustainability considerations are paramount."

 - This press release was originally published on the Tohoku University website and has been edited for style and clarity