Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, funded by £500,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, are striving to use graphene inks to print intricate 3D structures, in hopes to increase the charge storage of batteries and supercapacitors that they create. 

The scientists are involved in a project, meant to run about three and a half years, to create graphene-based energy storage systems. They are trying to achieve a conductive ink that blends the extraordinary properties of graphene with the ease of use of 3D printing to be manipulated into a structure that’s beneficial for batteries and supercapacitors.

While others have 3D printed using graphene in the past, the majority of work done by these other companies and research teams have relied on only graphene composites. These materials are composed of a mixture of graphene and either carbon black or graphite, meaning that they do not possess all of the defining attributes one would typically find with pure graphene, equating to poorer performance. Time is also an inhibiting factor in all of this, as each printed layer needs to be cured prior to the next layer being printed on top. In this project, the team aims to figure out a way to cure it directly, possibly by shining a UV light onto it, as anything above a micron level takes a long time. They are attempting to reach the somewhat idyllic scenario in which one would just plug in and go – printing the desired structure out of graphene from a machine on a desk.