Bold claims for new battery technology have been around since the invention of the lead-acid battery more than 150 years ago.
But researchers at Manchester University in the UK say their latest discovery involving the new wonder material graphene could be the most revolutionary advance in battery technology yet.
According to a study published in the journal Nature, graphene membranes could be used to sieve hydrogen gas from the atmosphere -- a development that could pave the way for electric generators powered by air.
"It looks extremely simple and equally promising," said Dr Sheng Hu, a post-doctoral researcher in the project. "Because graphene can be produced these days in square metre sheets, we hope that it will find its way to commercial fuel cells sooner rather than later."
At the heart of the technology is the remarkable physical properties of graphene -- a substance with the same atomic structure as the lead found in the humble household pencil.
Isolated in 2004 by a team from Manchester University headed by Andrew Geim and Kostya Novoselov -- both of whom won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery in 2010 -- graphene is already well known as a technological game-changer.
Flexible, transparent and able to conduct electricity even better than copper, the ground-breaking substance is set to revolutionize everything from smartphones and wearable technology to green technology and medicine.
Renowned for its barrier qualities, graphene is just one atom thick - more than a million times thinner than a human hair.
The latest discovery makes graphene attractive for possible uses in proton-conducting membranes which are at the core of modern fuel-cell technology.
Using graphene membranes could boost their efficiency and durability.
The team found the protons passed through the ultra-thin crystals with relative ease, especially at raised temperatures and with the use of a platinum-based catalyst coated on the membrane film.
The most surprising aspect of the research, however, found the membranes could be used to extract hydrogen from the atmosphere. The scientists said such harvesting could be combined with fuel cells to create a mobile electric generator fueled simply by hydrogen present in air.
"We worked with small membranes, and the achieved flow of hydrogen is of course tiny so far. But this is the initial stage of discovery, and the paper is to make experts aware of the existing prospects. To build up and test hydrogen harvesters will require much further effort."
Currently, hydrogen is obtained nearly entirely from fossil fuels.
Already scientists are finding new ways of processing graphene and new applications for the invisible substance. Because it is flexible and stretchable, it makes it an ideal candidate for solar generation.
New research from the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain showed that graphene could be far more efficient in the transformation of light into energy.
The study found that unlike silicon, which generates only one current-driving electron for each photon it absorbs, graphene can produce multiple electrons.
Although the application of graphene in solar cells is only theoretical, the potential could be staggering. Solar cells made with graphene could offer 60% solar cell efficiency -- double the widely-regarded maximum efficiency of silicon cells.
Apart from uses in transportation, where its lightness and strength stands to transform the manufacture of cars and planes to make them more fuel efficient, graphene has been studied as a corrosion-proof coating for packaging and even super-thin condoms.
In medicine, researchers say it could be used to deliver drugs to specific sites in the body and is being developed as a treatment for people with brain conditions.
In industry, its use as a membrane is being studied as a means of purifying water and even as a way of extracting salt and other elements from sea water to make it drinkable.
Comment: Although graphene is being touted with all these technological wonders, it is not so clear what the side effects of graphene oxide (when graphene is exposed to air) is to the environment and people.
Miracle material graphene can pose danger to the environment