Graphene Applications in the Energy Field: State-of- the-Art and Impact
Prieto Vivanco, Juan
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Graphene with its unique properties combining mechanical resistance 200 times superior to steel, exceptional electrical, thermal, quantum and optical properties apart from an enormous versatility to modify its properties, has become a "technological catalyst" that allows the drastic evolution of a series of devices and systems existing until now limited in their capacities. At the same time, it opens new barely explored application fields related to nanomaterials science. Its mono atomic thickness and the need for precise control in its composition and structure to exploit its properties are posing a fundamental challenge for its manufacture and application, which is requiring enormous efforts by the scientific community and the industry. Without having yet achieved precise and complete control of the manufacturing chain, there are already small-scale graphene production chains exploiting different production methods and producing graphene worldwide to feed a first generation of graphene-based devices. The energy sector in a fundamental process of transformation towards the generation, and massive and sustainable supply of energy to supply an exponentially growing demand, is one of the sectors in which a more immediate impact of this first generation of systems based on graphene is foreseen. The imminent commercial appearance of a new generation of storage technologies based on graphene, will significantly break the technical-economic viability thresholds that were limiting applications such as mass storage of energy in electricity networks or transport applications. In subsequent waves (2020-2025), new cheaper and more efficient hydrogen and electric generation devices will increase the availability of cheap, sustainable and distributed energy. As can be seen from the increase in the number of patents in recent years in graphene-based technologies and the gradual emergence of commercial publications from the private sector, the market is in the commercial testing phase prior to commercial exploitation. Numerous private companies have been set up to capitalize on the value of this first generation of graphene commercial applications and large corporations and niche companies are accelerating their machinery to position themselves first in this market. The next wave of applications with substantially more disruptive impact is still in the conceptualization and proof of concept phase in laboratories and universities, requiring levels of technological maturity that are not expected before 2025.