The next big thing for batteries may have fizzled out years ago.

Remember graphene? The advanced material -- made up of a lattice of carbon atoms -- may be poised for a comeback, albeit a quiet one, Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Julia Attwood said in a presentation at the BNEF Future of Energy Summit on Tuesday. Researchers are studying ways to use graphene in batteries, and the material has the potential to significantly boost performance in a much-needed technology.

Super lightweight, highly conductive of heat and electricity and, pound for pound, stronger than steel, it was all the rage a decade ago. In 2010, the scientists who first extracted it won the Nobel Prize in Physics. “The perfect atomic lattice,” the announcement gushed.

Fame and fortune followed. Money poured in, patent filings skyrocketed and hopes were raised that graphene could change everything from electronics to carbon-fiber composites to biotechnology. Then, just as fast as the hype came, it stopped as the supply chain was difficult and the material expensive to produce.

“Graphene was supposed to be everything,” Attwood, an emerging technologies analyst, said in an interview last week. “It really is suffering from people thinking it’s not living up to its potential, which isn’t quite true.”

While graphene wasn’t yet ready for the big time then -- for one thing, it’s still pretty expensive to process -- researchers have quietly advanced the technology in recent years and it’s starting to make inroads in energy storage. There, it can help battery makers -- who have already invested billions of dollars into mass-production techniques aimed at cutting costs -- achieve new improvements in both charging times and storage capacity.

In November, the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology announced that its researchers had developed a “graphene ball,” a material that would allow lithium-ion batteries to charge five times faster and have 45 percent more capacity. That alone could have big impact on both consumer electronics and the automotive industries.

“People are concerned about the comparison of filling up the gas tank and charging your car battery,” Attwood said. “Suddenly that’s not a problem because you only have to stop for 10 minutes and you can get another 200, 300 miles out of your car.”

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