It’s not only integrated circuits that look set to benefit from the use of graphene, the one-atom thick wonder material made up of a honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms. Researchers have discovered that adding graphene to titanium dioxide for use as electrodes in batteries improves performance over standard titanium oxide by a factor of three. This could pave the way for inexpensive titanium dioxide to replace the expensive, rare-earth metals or fire-prone carbon-based materials used in today's lithium-ion batteries.

On its own, titanium dioxide doesn't perform well enough to be seen as viable alternative to existing materials, so PNNL's Gary Yang and colleagues added graphene, a good conductor on its own, to see if that could help improve its performance. When they compared how well the new combination of electrode materials charged and discharged electric current, the electrodes containing graphene outperformed the standard titanium dioxide by up to three times. Graphene also performed better as an additive than carbon nanotubes.