3D-printed aerogels improve energy storage

April 22, 2015, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore researchers have made graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. Credit: Ryan Chen/LLNL

A new type of graphene aerogel will make for better energy storage, sensors, nanoelectronics, catalysis and separations.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. The research appears in the April 22 edition of the journal, Nature Communications.

The 3D printed graphene aerogels have high surface area, excellent electrical conductivity, are lightweight, have mechanical stiffness and exhibit supercompressibility (up to 90 percent compressive strain). In addition, the 3D printed graphene aerogel microlattices show an order of magnitude improvement over bulk graphene materials and much better .

Aerogel is a synthetic porous, ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. It is often referred to as "liquid smoke."

Previous attempts at creating bulk graphene aerogels produce a largely random pore structure, excluding the ability to tailor transport and other of the material for specific applications such as separations, flow batteries and pressure sensors.

"Making graphene aerogels with tailored macro-architectures for specific applications with a controllable and scalable assembly method remains a significant challenge that we were able to tackle," said engineer Marcus Worsley, a co-author of the paper. "3D printing allows one to intelligently design the pore structure of the aerogel, permitting control over mass transport (aerogels typically require high pressure gradients to drive mass transport through them due to small, tortuous ) and optimization of physical properties, such as stiffness. This development should open up the design space for using aerogels in novel and creative applications."

This animation shows the creation of graphene aerogel microlattices with an engineered architecture via a 3D printing technique known as direct ink writing. Animation by Kwei Chu/LLNL

During the process, the graphene oxide (GO) inks are prepared by combining an aqueous GO suspension and silica filler to form a homogenous, highly viscous ink. These GO inks are then loaded into a syringe barrel and extruded through a micronozzle to pattern 3D structures.

"Adapting the 3D printing technique to aerogels makes it possible to fabricate countless complex aerogel architectures for a broad range of applications including its mechanical properties and compressibility, which has never been achieved before, " said engineer Cheng Zhu, the other co-author of the journal article.

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not rated yet Apr 22, 2015
Once I can own a printer capable of printing foam, graphene sheets and carbon nanotubes I could live anywhere on earth. Floating Dome ships could be a thing one day with structural and energy storage material like this available.
not rated yet Apr 22, 2015
Floating Dome ships could be a thing one day with structural and energy storage material like this available.

I've been wondering about this as well lately, especially after learning about Julia Greer's work at CalTech. I think she did mention the possibility but did not quite expand on it. So : how far are we from creating a solid lighter than air? In other words a vacuum ship?
5 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2015
LIQUID smoke???
'Liquid smoke' is a flavoring agent sometimes used in barbecue sauce.

Aerogels are solids*, not liquids. They are often called 'solid smoke, and sometimes called 'frozen smoke'.

(*Calling aerogels solids ignores that they are almost entirely gas by volume, and the least dense ones are even mostly gas by mass. But one can rest objects on an aerogel, so by behavior they are solids).

not rated yet Apr 23, 2015
It's solid because the position of the moceluces doesn't change, not because you can rest something on it.

A pile of 1 molecule wide would still be a solid.

hence why (some) glass is a liquid.
not rated yet Apr 23, 2015
Nicknames like 'solid smoke' are typically descriptive to a broad audience (e.g., 'big bang', 'black hole', etc.). The 'solid' in the nickname 'solid smoke' comes from the macroscopic definition of 'solid' in that one can pick it up and rest things on it, rather than the microscopic definition of the atoms or molecules remaining fixed relative to one another.

(Would you call a microporous glass aerogel where the framework is an extremely slow liquid 'liquid smoke'?)

Since my comment was on the nickname, I used the term 'solid' as it is used in the nickname.
But I should have been clearer and put 'macroscopic' before 'behavior' to avoid confusion.

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