The two-dimensional one-atom-thick carbon allotrope was first isolated in Manchester in 2004.

Early research found that lithium batteries with graphene in their electrodes had better capacity and lifespan, when compared to standard designs.

A new project, dubbed Electrochemical Energy Storage with Graphene-Enabled Materials, is identifying different ways to reduce the size and weight of batteries and extend their lifespan by adding graphene as a component material.

University of Manchester professor from the School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering Andrew Forsyth said, "But before we build the batteries we need to know how graphene will interact with the chemical components – specifically electrolytes."

Forsyth’s colleague Robert Dryfe from the university’s School of Chemistry performs experiments to analyse the chemical interactions between graphene and lithium ions.

Dryfe is also identifying how fast electrons are transferred across graphene and the magnitude of capacitance.

According to Forsyth, a combination of graphene batteries and supercapacitors may give electric car sales some serious thrust.

Forsyth said, "If we can extend the distances that cars can travel between charge points we will instantly make them more popular."

"But how will the batteries cope with the real-life strains of driving? Electric cars – like all other vehicles – are not driven smoothly. Dramatic peaks in power demand as drivers accelerate will stress the battery and potentially limit its lifespan."

Graphene-based storage is also expected to play an important role in the future of the National Grid as the UK is becoming more reliable on renewable energy.

"If we rely on solar and wind power to produce energy, what will happen when clouds block the sun and the wind is just a breeze?" asks Forsyth.

"If we can develop high capacity electrical storage, operators will be able to store electricity for times of low generation."

As per the plans, researchers are currently installing a grid-scale battery and converter system on Manchester’s campus to test large scale electrical storage.

Researchers will use the battery system to develop methods to control the electricity flow and restore differences between power generation as well as local demand.

Image: Graphene energy storage devices are expected to increase performance of electric cars. Photo: Courtesy of The University of Manchester.