A Kansas State University researcher is developing more efficient ways to save costs, time and energy when creating nanomaterials and lithium-ion batteries.

For the latest research, Singh's team created graphene films that are between two and 10 layers thick. Graphene is an atom-thick sheet of carbon. The researchers grew the graphene films on copper and nickel foils by quickly heating them in a furnace in the presence of controlled amounts of argon, hydrogen and methane gases. The team has been able to create these films in less than 30 minutes.

The research is significant because the researchers created these graphene sheets by quickly heating and cooling the copper and nickel substrates at atmospheric pressures, meaning that scientists no longer need a vacuum to create few-layer-thick graphene films and can save energy, time and cost, Singh said.

The researchers used these graphene films to create the negative electrode of a lithium-ion cell and then studied the charge and discharge characteristics of this rechargeable battery. They found the graphene films grown on copper did not cycle the lithium ions and the battery capacity was negligible. But graphene grown on nickel showed improved performance because it was able to store and release lithium ions more efficiently.

In a second research project, the researchers created tungsten disulfide nanosheets that were approximately 10 layers thick. Starting with bulk tungsten disulfide powder -- which is a type of dry lubricant used in the automotive industry -- the team was able to separate atomic layer thick sheets of tungsten disulfide in a strong acid solution. This simple method made it possible to produce sheets in large quantities. Much like graphene, tungsten disulfide also has a layered atomic structure, but the individual layers are three atoms thick.

The researchers found that these acid-treated tungsten disulfide sheets could also store and release lithium ions but in a different way. The lithium is stored through a conversion reaction in which tungsten disulfide dissociates to form tungsten and lithium sulfide as the cell is discharged. Unlike graphene, this reaction involves the transfer of at least two electrons per tungsten atom. This is important because researchers have long disregarded such compounds as battery anodes because of the difficulty associated with adding lithium to these materials, Singh said. It is only recently that the conversion reaction-based battery anodes have gained popularity.

Both projects are important because they can help scientists create nanomaterials in a cost-effective way. While many studies have focused on making graphene using low-pressure chemical processes, little research has been tried using rapid heating and cooling at atmospheric pressures, Singh said. Similarly, large quantities of single-layer and multiple-layer thick sheets of tungsten disulfide are needed for other applications.

This story is reprinted from material from Kansas State University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.