Quercus Trust's Latest Energy Storage Play: Graphene Energy

graphene-logo3Graphene Energy, an Austin-based developer of ultracapacitor technology, has raised $500,000 in seed investment from Quercus Trust and 21Ventures. The investment represents yet another move by David Gelbaum’s Quercus Trust, which was the third-most active venture fund investing in cleantech in all of 2008, according to the Cleantech Group.

Graphene Energy works with the strongest material ever tested — a one-atom thick sheet of graphite — to build ultracapacitors. The material, known as graphene, was hailed as the new silicon last year when researchers discovered that electrons could travel up to 100 times faster in graphene than silicon.

Around the same time, a new generation of ultracapacitors emerged that aimed to seize the future of the auto industry. With ultra-fast charge times, they can absorb voltage drops and surges to extend battery life — or store electricity on their own. But capacity has lagged somewhere around 5 percent of battery’s storage capacity.

Graphene Energy plans to solve this problem by stacking several sheets of graphene (pictured below), which it says could as much as double the capacity offered by today’s commercial ultracapacitors (usually made with activated carbon). The company, which emerged from research at the University of Texas, foresees applications in electric and hybrid vehicles, mobile devices, and wind- and solar-powered electric grids.

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