Faster charging, longer lasting, and lower temperatures. These are the three major benefits from a lithium battery that has been infused with wonder-material graphene. Thing is, we’ve all heard about the benefits of graphene before, but despite all the hype, we’ve yet to really see it used in devices and products that you can actually buy.
That’s about to change according to Real Graphene, a Los Angeles-based technology company working on graphene-enhanced battery cells. Digital Trends spoke to CEO Samuel Gong about what benefits integrating graphene into a lithium battery will bring, and they’re extremely compelling. Even better news is that the tech is almost ready for mainstream use.
Graphene is no longer future tech
“People always think graphene is the thing of the future, but I’m here to correct them. It’s here now,” Gong told me. “We create a battery that can charge super fast, is very cool, and has a long life time in terms of cycle charges.”
What exactly does this mean? For charging, we’re used to regular phone batteries taking on average about 90 minutes, sometimes a little quicker, to recharge. The Real Graphene cell is much faster, with a full charge of a 3,000mAh cell taking about 20 minutes using a 60watt charging brick. Then there’s longevity. Most phone batteries can manage between 300 and 500 charge cycles, but Real Graphene’s batteries can last about 1500 cycles for the same capacity, and because the cell generates much less heat it runs much cooler, it’s safer too.
How does Real Graphene introduce these impressive benefits? It does so by mixing the graphene in with a regular lithium battery. Gong explained:
“Graphene is an amazing conductor of heat and electricity. Lithium doesn’t like it when you put a lot of energy in and when you take a lot of energy out. We’ve applied graphene in two different ways. We mix it in the solution with lithium, plus we’ve add a composite layer, like a sheet of it, in the lithium battery. It acts as a conductor for the electricity, and doesn’t generate as much heat.”
Real Graphene provides a complete battery solution to its clients, making not just the graphene and battery itself, but even the special chipset that’s required for charging. Making graphene in sheet form is a complex process, especially in the amounts and costs required for consumer use. Graphene is massively expensive, and when produced for labs can cost $25 per sheet. Several years ago a kilo of graphene cost $300,000.
A kilo may not sound very much, but it goes a very long way. Graphene is very light, and even five sheets of graphene is only 5 atoms thick, so not very much has to be used for batteries. Still, while the cost of graphene has dropped over the years, it remains very expensive and complex to produce. Because of this, some of the battery packs advertising graphene out there now apparently only use graphite, and cannot return the performance above.
Real Graphene has only recently started manufacturing its special cells, and Gong revealed some manufacturers are already testing them. But what if a company said it wanted to go ahead and place a graphene-enhanced cell from Real Graphene into a phone?
“It’s easy for us to scale up because we make the graphene,” he said. “[This would be] either by also using a battery facility owned by a manufacturer, or by partnering with another battery firm.”
It’s not just pushing ahead with manufacturing the new battery that would be relatively seamless. Because the Real Graphene battery still uses lithium, the enhanced version would be a simple swap for manufacturers.
“Adding a graphene sheet doesn’t affect the attributes of a cell. It’s only one-to-five atomic layers thick, and this doesn’t affect the physical properties at all. It’s an easy plug-and-play, because the cells can be the same shape and size. You get the immediate benefits of graphene,” Gong enthused.
While the cell itself will be practically identical in terms of size, there is an obvious price difference involved. The estimation is that a Real Graphene battery would add 30% to the cost of existing lithium batteries. This would naturally result in an increase in the overall cost of a phone; but many would likely pay a little more for a battery that charges faster and won’t degrade so quickly, meaning they can hold on to their phone for longer.
When will we get one?
If Real Graphene inked a deal with a major manufacturer tomorrow to power a limited run of around 100,000 or so premium devices — something along the lines of a Galaxy Fold — the company could realistically fulfill the order right now, according to Gong. A larger run for a more mainstream device may take about a year for it to ramp up production. Real Graphene is working on making graphene batteries for products as small as a smartwatch, and as big as a battery-powered golf cart.
A deal with a phone maker will be needed before we see a graphene-enhanced battery inside a device; but you can currently buy Real Graphene power banks right now on Amazon. These charge quickly; but not to the level mentioned above. Excitingly though, Real Graphene will launch a crowdfunding campaign in the near future for battery packs that fulfill the exciting promise talked Gong talked about.
There will be two battery packs. The G-100 will have a 10,000mAh cell with three charging ports that will recharge in just 20 minutes using a separate 100W charging brick. It’ll cost around $90, plus another $15 for the 100W charger. A second G-100 Max power pack with a 20,000 cell inside will also be sold, and recharge in 40 minutes. Graphene batteries are clearly not just a thing of the future any more, and Gong predicts plenty more news will come this year:
“We’ll start seeing graphene batteries in actual big brand devices within a year. Not in every single device, but trickling down from the higher end at first.”
Real Graphene intends to launch its battery pack crowdfunding campaign in the coming weeks, but was not able to share which companies are testing its complete battery solution.