Using Blender to Emulate a Graphene Battery
The process & explanation of making a 3-D model of a graphene vibration energy harvester
Have you ever had your laptop run out of battery while away from your house, or had your phone run out of battery while at your house and have to wait what seems like eons for it to finish charging?
Trust me, I have too, and I know how boring the wait for your device to finish charging can be, especially when you were at the climax of your favorite Netflix show or when FaceTiming a friend.
This pesky and annoying situation can be solved — and its solution is to have way cooler batteries, a.k.a. graphene batteries.
First of all, what is graphene?
Graphene is essentially one of the strongest, lightest, and most conductive materials on Earth. It’s carbon-based and has atoms that arrange in a hexagonal structure, which contributes to its strong features. If utilized correctly, graphene can be used for a large variety of things, from bulletproof jackets to water filtration systems. (for more info, check out my article below on graphene!)
The Incoming Graphene Age
How the lead in our pencils could power the next generation of tech
The technology using graphene that I decided to focus on is the graphene vibration energy harvester, which is a battery that almost never has to be charged and can last several years without breaking or ceasing to work.
The Vibration Energy Harvester: A Brief Intro
Graphene is the key to how the vibration energy harvester works. To start off, a negatively charged sheet of graphene is suspended between two electrodes (electrodes are basically electrical conductors). As graphene conducts heat, it buckles up and down in a specific pattern. As it buckles up, it comes in contact with the top electrode and charges that, and as it buckles down, it comes in contact with the bottom electrode and charges that too. This creates what is called an alternating current.
This technology can not only be used for phones, but can also be used for technologies such as health monitors, thermostats, street lighting, and the list goes on!
To demonstrate how this technology looks like and how it works, I’ve created a model in Blender! Sadly, I couldn’t animate it because my laptop isn’t the strongest and lags a lot, but I can show you how I built the model and how the animation would have worked.
I started off with making a shape out of spheres and cylinders with interior 120-degree angles. I didn’t make full hexagons to begin with because doing so would make the hexagons overlap.
After that, I duplicated that structure, put the two structures together, and made that a single structure. I repeated that process until I got what looked like a sheet of graphene.
After making the sheet of graphene, I moved on to making the rest of the vibration energy harvester. Here’s what the end product looked like after combining and tweaking a bunch of cylinders, cubes, and spheres:
But wait! There’s more!! Although this looks fine as it is, I wanted to animate the graphene part to move in that concave-convex motion it would move in while sustaining energy. The animation part wasn’t entirely successful, but I can show you how it would have worked.
The Animation Process
To make the graphene move up and down, I would need to use armature, which is one of the key factors that create the animation process for big animation companies like Pixar.
To start off, I added an armature mesh and expanded it in a cross-like shape because the main moving part of the graphene is the middle part moving up and down while taking the surrounding graphene with it.
I then scaled the armature down and attached it to the graphene, making the armature the parent object so that when the armature moves up so would the graphene, and when the armature moves down the graphene would too.
As said before, the animation part didn’t work so I couldn’t add it. Another part I planned to add that I couldn’t due to the entire Blender file lagging was lights moving through the long gray cylinders, which would represent the flow of energy as the graphene touched each electrode.
Here’s a demonstration of how this part would have looked through drawings and a separate Blender file!
What I would have done is made the cylinders (representing the energy current) transparent by going into “Shading” and putting an image over the cylinders. I’d then make the image slightly transparent — just enough to see the sphere inside but still see the cylinders as gray.
Here’s a link for the tutorial on making an object transparent in Blender.
To make the “energy” glow, I added a mesh sphere and went into the Material Properties tab on the right, and clicked Emission under the “Surface” dropdown. From there, I adjusted the color and strength of the energy.
After that, I went into the Render Properties tab and checked the “Bloom” box. I adjusted the other properties under the Bloom dropdown, which led to the glowing of the energy ball!
I would also use the same glowing effect for the lightbulb in the image. Now that both the glowing and transparency components have been adjusted, the actual movement of the “energy” can be added.
In this example, we’ll be animating the sphere and not the cube.
To mark the initial position, a keyframe would be set at frame 1 to lock in the sphere’s initial position. After the location keyframe is locked in, the process of locking in keyframes for each position would be repeated until movement isn’t needed anymore.
In the GIF, the keyframes are the small white and yellow circles at the bottom. The numbers they’re set on indicate the frame each position is on, and the result is animated smoothly.
Sidenote: With the vibration energy harvester animation, the sphere wouldn't actually go outside of the cylinder.
The Final Product!
Here’s a recap of what the final product would have looked like using amazing, brilliant, breath-taking images edited by me!!
Here, the armature (which would be invisible during the process of animation) would pull the graphene up. As the graphene comes in contact with the top electrode, “energy” would be seen flowing through the current and the lightbulb would be lit.
The same process would happen for the graphene touching the bottom electrode. Throughout this animation, the lightbulb would stay lit.
Anddddd that is how my model would have worked! I really hope you learned a lot about both Blender and graphene from this article. In the future, be on the lookout for awesome, sustainable nanotechnology batteries that’ll make working on your laptop or watching movies on your phone a lot easier!