Breakthrough: Electricity from Graphene and Water

We’ve mentioned some of the remarkable properties of graphene here before, and here’s some news that shows the potential of the single- atom-thick-material for energy production.

A research team at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics have published an article in Nature Nanotechnology describing how they have discovered a method of producing electricity by dragging saltwater droplets over graphene. The team discovered that when an unbalanced drop of water interacts with graphene, electrons are desorbed at one end of the drop and absorbed at the other end, thus creating a potential difference, and a voltage. When a water drop is stationary, there is no potential difference, and therefore no voltage is generated.

More information is available at here:

In related news, the article above mentions that the process mentioned won’t be possible for widespread use for some time yet, because so far mass production of graphene is difficult and expensive. However, there has been an interesting breakthrough by a team from Trinity College Dublin in Irelend who have discovered a low cost method of producing graphene using an ordinary kitchen blender. An article in the Irish Times explains the method:

[Principal investigator professor Jonathan] Coleman and his group developed a water-based method to slide one sheet off the top at a time, like sliding one card after another off a deck of cards. The key to their method is floating graphite in water and spinning it up with a rotor which makes the graphene sheets separate from one another. They then add a “surfactant” that sticks to the sheets and keeps them apart.

“We just used a little bit of soap in the water,” Coleman said. “You could probably do it at home in a kitchen blender. We demoed the process in a Kenwood blender from Argosworth €39.95 and added a bit of Fairy Liquid. You can sell this as a green process.”

This was an advance that “USA, China, Australia, UK, Germany and other leading nations had all been striving for and have not yet achieved”, said Minister of State for Research Sean Sherlock. The breakthrough showed that the Government’s strategy of backing science while encouraging industry links was working, he said.

I think it’s fascinating to see the progress being made in the development of graphene, and simple discoveries like the one mentioned above show that progress might be made faster than we currently suppose. The idea of using water and graphene together to generate electricty is of course a highly intriguing one — and a development worth watching.

  • Argon

    It is always good to spread the word and publish even early findings, where other researchers can add on to develop ideas further.
    So go for it, but what boggers me is that when no numerical estimates of technology possibilities limits are not yet available, we should not jump to too wild conclutions. Maybe this technology is capable on electriicty production, or it will be in just milli Watts scale, or not efficient for larger scale use.
    reason why I mostly skip MIT powerpoinmt research papers nowdays (I might be wrong, but I have been many times disappointed after studying details below sweet headlines).
    By quick browse I didn’t find any relevant numerical data or estimates on efficiency, so at least I will be just monitoring news on this, without speculating bright future, untill some facts becomes available.

    • bachcole

      Argon, are you a noble dude? My daughter is a noble dudette, but her husband is kryptonite, as in U.S. Army Ranger and Special Forces. (:->)

      Anyway, to get off of my lame attempt at the humor, I agree. I can’t see how this water-over-graphene is going to generate a lot of electricity. I can generate electricity walking through the grocery store in my sandals and it ain’t very pleasant when I discover that I am all charged up. As far as I can see, it is nothing more than a curiosity. And I bet $100 that it isn’t over-unity. I’ll even bet my daughter that it isn’t over-unity. It is just another curiosity with no practical value, yet.

      • Obvious

        Maybe one day they can make you some sandals with water and graphene built into the soles that powers a foot massager as you walk…

      • Argon

        You got it – please tell my sympathy to her husband 🙂
        I feel these grazy (read plastic boobs) times needs us boring pople trying to keep sanity over everything ‘amazing’, ‘incrediblle’, ‘superior’ etc.

        Again as said I’m not against reporting, discussion and speculations thats the salt of all this. Trying to figure out how it works, how it could be combined some other technology we heard of and so on. We could even figure something revolutionary out here by just hitting our heads together, which is direction I would like to support this sane and interesting forum continuing. So also my humble thanks to author of the site, where all it starts from.

        These short ‘newslettes’ typically misses some cruicial details, and therefore it can be so that in reality those graphene researchers might have deeper insights about scalability of this new finding. What I could speculate is that coating parts of water pipe with graphene, could give some amount of electricity as by product, so efficiencys doesn’t need to be so high then. Or by covering 1 km of breakwater wall with graphene, could give quite lot more electricity 24/7 almost for free for ever. That day is close since mass producing graphene becomes cheaper and cheaper. How to harvest electricity then? How about put metal net from 1 mm distance over graphene? So not impossible, but hard to tell before real info is revealed.

    • BroKeeper

      Remake of The Graduate “One Word: Graphene”

  • Fortyniner

    I am a slow learner, but as someone who will collect a state pension this year I don’t have forever to catch up. If I had another century or so I might get a few things figured out.

    • dickyaesta

      Aren’t we all computers connected to a universal cloud 49. And therefore all past knowledge never gets lost as say sage people?! One has only to connect and put in one’s password and off you go into the universal cloud, so, in my opinion, you have all the time you need to develop your thingies once reborn there might be a little problem to reconnect with your old password, but for that you will have your new infancy to search and because kids fly under the radar for adults nobody suspects you are in fact reconnecting and reading your old files and le voila another adult is born with extraordinary insights into steamengines and LENR.
      What about that for long term planning on your jubilation. He, 49, which should possibly be 64 er 😉 And if you ask for proof look at the kids today connecting to THE CLOUD, they learn faster now because they computer-aided kids!

      • LENR G

        I don’t know what we are but it sure would be cool to find out.

        • bachcole

          That is why we are here.

    • Fortyniner

      I think my connection to the cloud must be through a dial-up modem on a noisy line.

      • bachcole

        The connection is within and the noise is your desires and ego. I have exactly the same problem. The desires and ego are compelling, otherwise people would naturally drift into Nirvana/Bliss.

    • bkrharold

      Life is a great mystery but it is almost impossible to live to our age without learning a few things.Certain things are beyond our control like our family and upbringing, but we definitely have a great deal of choice and control as we get older. I believe there must be a reason for all this.We all visit this website in the hope that we can make the world a better place. Promoting clean sustainable energy for a future of abundance for everybody is our goal. We have decided that is what we are about and gives meaning to our lives.

  • Fortyniner


    (Disclosure: one of my websites!)

  • georgehants

    Chemistry World
    Graphene made in a kitchen blender
    Suspensions of high quality graphene can be produced quickly and cheaply using a common industrial mixer, researchers in Ireland have discovered.1 The scientists even managed to produce small amounts of graphene using a kitchen blender.

    • Omega Z

      Frank has a link-Article-above
      Same subject. Different site.
      Gona go buy me a new blender.

  • bachcole
  • LENR G

    Well, you hit on a key concept that I’d like to expand on. Smaller scales trump larger scales. If you can fix the components of a thing then you can fix the thing.

    An example of a stupid macro decision that many make: smoking. Assaults your body with tar and nicotine, which eventually leads to serious lung problems and often cancer. But if damaged lung cells can be replaced and cancerous cells destroyed (etc.) then the harmful effects of smoking could be eliminated.

    As could the effects of eating lots of red meat or playing contact sports.

    So micro and nanoscale engineering can solve any macro-level issue. The behavior doesn’t have to be “solved” if the effects of the behavior can be completely countered.

    • bachcole

      LENR G, I rarely say, “with all due respect” But with you, I say with all due respect, first it is not cost effective to smoke and then pay for nano-scale solutions. It is much cheaper to not smoke in the first place. Unless of course you can get everyone else to pay for your nano-scale solutions. But, of course, if everyone smokes, then who pays for the nano-scale solutions?

      Secondly, it encourages irresponsible behavior. Instead of growing a backbone and resisting the temptation to chase after every desire thinking that the fulfillment of said desire is going to cause one to become happy, one does not look for and find happiness within.

      Thirdly, 95% of our health problems already have solutions. But we rather stick with worshiping at the Altar of Modern Medicine and staying inside our medical box than studying and trying these other solutions. When we have exhausted these other solutions that are already available, although outside of lamestream medical paradigm, then I will become more interested nano-scale solutions to the health problems that don’t seem to have solutions, like already established birth defects and autism. (Autism can be prevented, but it would require generations of environmental clean-up and right eating and exercise and living for mothers to stop giving birth to autistic children.)

      • LENR G

        I’m not arguing against living healthy or making good choices. Just discussing what’s going to become possible technologically.

        And just because progress might encourage behaviors you might find stupid or undesirable, I can assure you that people are going to behave how they are going to behave and it doesn’t have much to do with how you, me or anybody else wants them to. That’s the essence of freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

        And with that I give you powdered alcohol.

  • LENR G

    Sufficiently advanced micro- and nano-scale devices would certainly be able to remove or destroy undesirable cells, bacteria, viruses and bad stuff in your body.

    It’s not even controversial in terms of whether its possible. It’s a horrendously difficult engineering problem, of course. One that’s currently far out of reach… but it won’t be that way forever.

    • bejammin075

      The current thinking on aging is that glycation reactions are a major contributor to aging. Also, the scale I’m thinking of is about 100,000 times smaller than a virus, which is of course much smaller than the bacteria or undesirable cells. That’s where the action is.

      • LENR G

        Ah, well you went right to the most difficult problem then. I know that telomere repair has shown to be very effective in lab trials, so maybe the solution is repairing some cell machinery and that’ll clear things up.

        Stem cells to replace busted ones.

        If intervention instead is required at the small molecule scale to defeat aging completely then that will be difficult but not impossible.

        I mean can you imagine how advanced human technology will be in 2250 or 2500? Our knowledge as a species is growing exponentially.

        • Omega Z

          Me thinks everyone may be over thinking it.
          The Body is an amazing machine with abilities we can’t yet fathom.

          Rather then try to fix every little detail, You just fix the bodies own little mechanics that brake down. Let them do the rest.

      • Ryan

        I think your size estimates are a tad off. Viruses are at the nanoscale (1x10e-9 meters in scale), typically around a few hundred to a thousand or so nm in size. Glycation reactions use enzymes, also at the nanoscale (though a bit smaller at 1x10e-10 meters), so nanotech would be able to work with and manipulate them as well, they would simply be at the very small range of the nanoscale. If it were a 100,000 times smaller than viruses it would make them close to the same size of neutrons and protons which are at the femto scale which is a 1,000,000 times smaller than the nano scale (1x10e-15 meters).

  • Ophelia Rump

    You make it sound so simple!
    You give me hope.

  • Ophelia Rump

    I have a difficult time calling the potential difference between one side of a drop of water and the other electricity.

    Having to drag the water across the graphene while holding the wires in the water drops’s sides seems to me would take more effort than it is worth. Couldn’t they just stick some pins in a potato, and generate some real power?

  • bachcole

    I fear graphene. I don’t want to fear graphene. I hope that we will test graphene and all other nanoscale thingies thoroughly with animals to make sure that we aren’t make a really big mistake.

    I buy MSM and use it regularly. If one MSM product does not cake, it has anti-caking agent in it and it really doesn’t work as well as the MSM product that cakes. But, get this, if an MSM product cakes just a little bit, it does not work as well as the MSM product that cakes a lot. I don’t have the equipment to determine if the little-bit-of-caking MSM has anti-caking agent in it or not. There is a lot more going on at the nanoscale than is accounted for by our physics and chemistry.

    • Andreas Moraitis

      MSM? Could you explain that, please?

      • artefact

        Mainstream Media

    • Ophelia Rump

      bachcole, please also consider the relative merits of ignorance over knowledge.
      If science does not go there then we will never know what quite ordinary and acceptable things are ruining us at a nano level.

      Of course we will poison a couple of generations in the process.
      It is like yesterday I remember butter was bad for us, then they created margarine the savior, then margarine was worse than butter, and then there were several other permutations and horror show improvements, which I now comfortably ignore as I munch my toast and butter in peace with the knowledge that in only a few more generations there might be an honest answer.

      • LENR G

        Health/medical research has often taken the form of population studies and things wind up necessarily statistical and ambiguous. Plus with entities pushing particular products — well, as usual, money wins.

        I think though we’re entering a new era though where medicine will become far more exact and personalized. We can do MRIs, CAT scans, robotic surgery and even DNA sequencing today… but I think we’re closing in on in vivo sensing and then remediation. If it helps, think of it as the development of “smart drugs.” Smart drugs will be to your body compared to today’s drugs like smart phones are to your old rotary phone.

    • BroKeeper

      This comment reminds me of my grandfather’s co-invention of asbestos insulation for pipes. I think he may have died from complications of fiber inhalation. Weird stuff, I remember playing with an asbestos rock my dad had laying on a shelf – peeling off its stringy fibers. I told that to my middle son and he replied “that explains everything.” Thanks son.

      • just for information if you feel stressed , one key co-factor if smoking.
        it seems (to be checked) that nearly no non-smoker died of asbestos.

        If you smoke, stop. immediately and forever. at worst it would be very good for your health.

        one key fact that is hidden, to avoid accusing the victims of having died from yet another tobacco disease (atherosclerosis is another).

  • georgehants

    Could the situation with Graphene be a fair indication of what can be achieved when everybody is working on the Research etc.
    It seems to be moving very fast, are all these advances coming from industry and private effort or is there any academic or establishment science involvement in the progress.

    • ecatworld

      Graphene was discovered at the university of Manchester where there is now a Graphene Institute:

      • georgehants

        Then as I wrote above it shows what can be achieved when competent and able people are involved.
        I hope those scientists are being fairly rewarded and recognised for their achievements.
        But not more than the Cold Fusion guys.

        • Vio Phile

          Rewarded and recognised scientists. Isn’t all science rotten then?

          • georgehants

            Vio, very unfair of you to accuse “all science” of being “rotten”, the Evidence clearly shows that only say 95% of corrupt and incompetent scientists debunked Cold Fusion.
            I am sure that you have always had an open-mind on these things and if I ask you to give your evaluation of the handling of say the UFO phenomenon by science you will come back to me with much open-minded wisdom.
            I look forward to your reply.

  • LENR G

    As we get better and better at engineering at nanometer scales, a large number of amazing technologies are going to become possible.

    I’d list them but you’d think I was crazy. For starters, how about indefinite perfect health. Every health problem is solvable at the nanoscale. Every. Single. One.