Graphene Could Be Used To Create Greener, Lighter Cars

Scientists demonstrated how the miraculous material graphene could lead to "greener" vehicles by converting heat into electricity.

This atom-thick material could harvest excess heat from a car's engine, and use it to recharge the batteries or power the air conditioner, Manchester University reported.

Modern cars generally through fuel consumption to heat, and making use of this energy requires a thermoelectric material that can generate an electrical current. These types of materials are usually extremely toxic, and require temperatures higher than what is possible with a car engine to operate. By adding graphene, scientists could potentially create a new type of material that could reduce carbon emissions from vehicles across the globe.

"Our findings show that by introducing a small amount of graphene to the base material can reduce the thermal operating window to room temperature which offers a huge range of potential for applications," said researchers Robert Freer. "The new material will convert [3 to 5 percent] of the heat into electricity. That is not much but, given that the average vehicle loses roughly 70 [percent] of the energy supplied to it by its fuel to waste heat and friction, recovering even a small percentage of this with thermoelectric technology would be worthwhile."

The findings show graphene's unique qualities, such as its small size and superlative properties, caused a slow down in heat transfer that lowered operating temperature. While graphene could greatly help the vehicle manufacturing industry, it could have benefits for fuel economy and safety if used in the chassis or bodywork to reduce the weight of the car.

The findings were published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.