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Graphene is the key to the car of the future

Graphene is a carbon based material, near transparent, light and very strong. It also has excellent conductive properties (far superior to silicone). The new material, for which the discoveries at Manchester University won a Nobel Prize, has been featured regularly on Digital Journal.

Beloved by the electronics industry it seems that graphene may have a new application in cars. By capturing the heat generated by a car’s engine (heat that would otherwise be wasted), graphene can help direct the heat to recharge the car’s batteries or for powering the fuel-heavy air-conditioning system.

Researchers at the University of Manchester estimate that up to 70 percent of the energy generated through gasoline or diesel consumption by a car is lost. A way to improve this and to make motor vehicles more efficient is to deploy a thermoelectric material – like graphene – to generate an electrical current from the application of heat.

All thermoelectric material studied in the past is either inefficient; too heavy to use within a car; or toxic. Graphene is none of these; it is efficient, light-weight and non-toxic. In trials, a graphene composite was able to convert heat into an electric current. This occurred over a wide temperature range.

So far, the new material can convert 3 to 5 percent of the heat into electricity. The researchers are hoping to push this even further. It is also likely that graphene will one day be used to construct chassis and bodywork of cars, making them stronger and lighter. Being lighter will also contribute to fuel efficiency.

The research was conducted at The University of Manchester in conjunction with the company European Thermodynamics Ltd. The findings have been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. The research paper is titled “Thermoelectric power generation from lanthanum strontium titanium oxide at room temperature through the addition of graphene.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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