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Graphene Uses and Applications in Energy Industry

1. Graphene in Solar Cells

In 2017, researchers from MIT have managed to apply Graphene successfully on a solar cell. When they compared the graphene solar cell with others made of Aluminum and Indium Tin Oxide, they saw that it was as good as the ITO cell, and a little worse than Al one in terms of current densities and power conversion efficiencies. However, it is expected for a transparent cell to perform lower than Aluminum-based, which is nontransparent.

Although electrical properties were not a breakthrough, a solar cell that can be installed on any kind of surface (cars, clothes, paper, and cell phones, etc.) which is flexible and transparent was developed. Moreover, other scientists are trying to find out if graphene solar cells can generate energy from raindrops, which theoretically looks possible.

2. Graphene Batteries

The block of graphene enhanced Li-ion batteries show incredible characteristics such as longer lifespan, higher capacity, and faster charging time as well as flexibility and lightness, so that it could be used in wearable electronics.

3. Graphene in Nuclear Power Plants

Heavy water used in nuclear power plants to cool the reactors is both costly to produce and causes a million tons of CO2 emissions during production. Researchers from University of Manchester have discovered that there is a greener and low-cost method to produce heavy water: graphene membranes. Team leader Dr. Lozada-Hidalgo believes that this innovation is extremely important and its introduction to the nuclear industry will be soon even though this industry is usually skeptical about new technologies.

4. Graphene in Thermoelectric

Seebeck effect is defined as a thermoelectric effect occurring when heat is applied to one of the two dissimilar electric conductors (or semiconductors) to move the electrons from the hot part to the cooler part and produce electricity. However, the energy generated by this method is really small, usually quantified by microvolts. Still, it is believed that it can be used to benefit from the heat generated by the engines, which is practically wasted. Graphene can be used to increase the Seebeck effect created by Strontium Titanate, almost up to 5 times.

5. Graphene in Alcohol Distillation

Graphene's physical properties is so interesting and unique that, it would let large water molecules to pass through but stop Helium molecules which could leak through glass. Andre Geim (one of the inventors of Graphene) and Rahul Nair from Manchester University have tried sealing a bottle of vodka with graphene membrane that they have developed, and discovered that graphene could distill ethanol effectively even at room temperature and without the vacuum needed for distillation methods. This area of utilization can be employed in alcoholic beverages, fuel, water purification and so on.

6. Graphene in Fuel Cells

Even hydrogen atoms, known as the smallest atom, cannot pass through Graphene. In another research, Sir Andre Geim and his team have tested if protons would be blocked by graphene or not. Suprisingly, protons could pass through graphene. This property would improve fuel cells performance by lowering the fuel crossover which is a major problem with fuel cells that decreases durability and efficiency.

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