Graphene-based electrical storage, Skeleton, Germany and Estonia

Development and commercialisation of high-speed, high-density energy storage systems based on graphene technology.

Total project cost: EUR 34.8 million; EIB loan: up to EUR 15 million, EFSI guarantee.

Nanotechnology is a buzzword that people like to use when talking about the future of science, engineering and society. They may also mention graphene as an area of nanotechnology with great potential. This project, based in Germany and Estonia, shows that European scientists and engineers are already commercialising a nanotechnology and graphene future, with EIB and EU support.

The project supports the creation and commercialisation of electrical storage devices based on graphene technology. Carbon can be soft when its atoms are arranged in the form of graphite, or very hard when they make up a diamond. Graphene is what you get if you create a honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms that is just one layer thick. A graphene composite would be hundreds of times stronger than steel, but it is its electrical properties which Skeleton is exploiting. Capacitors are often used to smooth the flow of electricity in electronic and electrical devices. Like batteries, they store electrical energy. However, unlike batteries, they can charge and discharge very quickly. A capacitor using graphene sheets can charge and discharge many times faster than a conventional battery: almost instantaneously, with very high energy density. Skeleton is commercialising a range of graphene-based super capacitors to optimise energy use across a wide range of sectors, including direct regenerative braking which could replace hydraulic accumulators on construction machinery or conventional brakes on road vehicles.

Skeleton is a rapidly developing company, making the transition from a venture capital start-up, to a mass production supplier of energy control and storage systems to a wide range of engineering sectors. To achieve this, it is making capital investments at its existing facilities in Estonia and setting up a new production plant in Germany, whilst continuing to invest heavily in research and development. Its EIB loan, backed by an EFSI guarantee, will allow it to build its production facilities and consolidate its market position more quickly than might have otherwise been possible, and to continue developing its cutting-edge products.