Supercaps deal deadly blow to lithium
Lithium loses as graphene supercapacitors dominate energy storage
Five years ago, it was lithium that was in high demand for lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, to store excess solar power and keep 5G towers working during blackouts. But now it’s graphite that’s the hot commodity, as graphene supercapacitors take over.
Lithium was the king of battery metals, alongside nickel and manganese, even as cobalt was taken out of the mix. The new generation of LFP batteries proved to be cheaper, safer, and powerful enough for electric cars, and ideal for daily storage of surplus solar energy. Battery companies and mining houses joined forces to exploit new sources of lithium, both to ensure security of supply and also to wrest control of lithium processing from China.
While graphite was an important component of lithium batteries, it wasn’t the top priority. Until the rise of graphene supercapacitors. Supercapacitors store energy electronically, without any chemistry, and can be charged and discharged in seconds or minutes, over and over. Which makes them ideal for high-cycling applications, like grid balancing and high-performance cars. And graphene gives supercapacitors ultra capacity.
Now production costs of supercaps made with graphene and reduced graphene oxide have declined, just like lithium-ion did, and backup systems and solar installations are choosing supercaps over batteries – they cost the same and last for 30 years! It’s just a matter of time before electric car makers switch too. Why deal with the weight and complex chemicals of batteries, when you can use solid-state supercapacitors that charge in minutes and last a lifetime?
As battery giants like BYD and CATL scramble to change their production lines to support supercaps, the mining companies who placed big bets on lithium are ruefully eying graphite as the latest mineral driving the electric future. For without high-quality graphite, making graphene supercapacitors at scale becomes a near impossible task.
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