Researchers have reported a graphene-based material with special electric properties, which might enable the production of better energy storage devices. The material follows the predictions of physicists from the University of Luxembourg that three years ago had theoretically predicted the unusual characteristics of a particular composite material. These calculations could now finally be confirmed by experiment in cooperation with the “Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal” in Bordeaux, France, and resulted in the discovery of a so-called high-k-material, which might enable the production of better energy storage devices – the basis for smaller, faster and more efficient electronics.
Earlier calculations indicated disappointing results - certain compound materials made of polymers and flaky graphene, as opposed to those made of polymers and carbon nanotubes, did not increase the conductivity of the material to the degree that was generally expected until then. These were bad news that clouded graphene's perceived future in creating composites with increased conductivity.
This prediction, however, lead to a highly promising discovery: the effect that put the conductivity of the plastics-graphene-compound into question, causes it to have remarkable dielectric properties. This means that one can generate a strong electric field inside of it – the fundamental property for the production of efficient capacitors. These are tiny components that can store energy statically and occur in almost all electronic devices, where they act as voltage regulators or information storage, among other things. Computers, for example, contain billions of those.
The dielectric properties of the compound material come about as a result of its liquid crystal properties impeding the arrangement of the graphene flakes into a conducting structure.When an electric current occurs, it does not flow directly through the compound, but instead generates a strong electric field.
The chemicals company Solvay, partner of the research project, now wants to continue the research around this new high-k-material, aiming to produce synthetics for particularly efficient capacitors and further applications in the future.