Charging and Changing the Electronic World

Unless you are very much into electronics and renewable energy, the odds are that you have never heard of Graphene, much less Graphene 3D Printing. Yet, the technology, and the implications of how 3D Printing of this technology could change the way in which we power our electronic devices, is exceptional.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a conductor, possibly the best conductor, of electricity. It is an allotrope of carbon and a semi-metal. In terms of its molecular structure, there is a close resemblance to a honeycomb or a hexagon. Abnormal properties of Graphene include its efficiency in conducting heat & electricity and the fact that it is the strongest material ever tested.

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Typical Graphene is laced together to form a honeycomb structure as can be seen in this image from English in Guia.

How can Graphene Change the World of Electronics?

The key attribute of Graphene which sets it apart from other elements is that it can recharge itself if it is placed in a device that can convert other forms of energy, such as latent heat, to electricity. In other words, it can be self-powering and self-sustaining. Think of the uses of such an element in today’s world. With electronics getting thinner and thinner, it would allow for screens to be only a few millimetres thick, implants and tracking devices to be microscopic, and batteries to last for outrageously long periods of time. As outlined by MIT’s Technology Review, ambient heat could be used to charge a Graphene battery.

How does 3D Printing Work with Graphene?

Metals have already found their place in 3D Printing allowing for the fabrication of motor engine casings, prosthetic armatures, and jewellery (just to name a few). It would be foolish to believe that Graphene could not be used in CAD Designs.

In addition to the printability of the semi-metal, there is the casing of the element to consider. As of now, Graphene batteries often require a Thermoplastic (PLA) casing. This casing makes up a large percentage of the battery. Since the thermoplastic could easily be transferred over to 3D Printing on a commercial level, it is possible, even probable, that such will be used should the Graphene based battery gain momentum in the electronic marketplace.

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Here you can see from this autoracing image, the immense difference between various energy densities. Li-ion ranks at only 180 with Graphene having nearly 6 times the Energy Density.

How would 3D Printed Graphene Batteries Change the World?

Renewable energy has been in debate for several decades. And as we press forward with new technologies and methodologies for a cleaner planet, focused on the conservation of energy and renewable energy, it makes sense to reduce the waste produced from lithium-based batteries and other forms of electronic charging. Consider. The shelf life of a lithium ion battery is 20 years, though once in use the battery life reduces to 1000 cycles (a cycle being where the battery is all the way used up and then all the way recharged).

Graphene battery life is substantially longer. According to Huawei, they double the lifespan. Theoretically, this means that you could have a shelf life of 40 to 50 years on the battery and about 2000 charging cycles per battery. That is a lot of usage and a lot less wastage.

Are there any uses Outside of Batteries?

Graphene, especially 3D Printing of Graphene, is a new concept and thereby the uses have not been fully explored. Yet, there are a few areas where this semi-metal could be used for tremendous benefits, both economically and ecologically. For example, if a 3D Artist were to create a solar panel composed of pure Graphene, it would self-charge, continue to increase power, and reduce energy waste.

Additionally, as the panel may not require the number of repairs and upkeep maintenance as traditional solar panels, the company providing the service could have higher ROIs from a decrease in overhead and upkeep.

Another possibility would be for Smartphones and Televisions to use the emerging Graphene technology to reuse the energy lost via heat and light. This would allow the device to be more energy efficient and potentially last for a greater period

It is important to note that Graphene is not just for battery usage. Remember, it is a semi-metal and thereby can be used in the same ways (in most instances) as a strong alloy is traditionally used. MIT has already proven that the semi-metal can be 3D Printed to create solid structures which are as light as air and 10x stronger than steel.

Are we apt to see this Change in Electronics?

While it would be idealistic to have such technology flowing freely in the marketplace, such is not the way of commerce. More likely than naught, we will find that the Graphene capabilities are limited to batteries and expensive electrical goods. We may find that the newer mobile phones may implement this technology as a means of eliminating the cost of producing chargers and charging devices. Yet, in a world driven by funding rather than by functionality in many cases, the economics of Graphene will have to appeal to the bigger corporations before we can expect to see a substantial emergence of 3D Printed Graphene for everyday use.

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