Previously, we have talked about how titanium dioxide gel can potentially be a good substitute to conventional graphite as anodes inside the Lithium ion battery. Well this time around, a research team at the University of California, Riverside, has opted for something more ‘natural’ in the form of cheap portabella mushrooms that could take over from synthetic graphite. Now, while mushroom may seem as a ‘weird’ solution for actual battery systems, according to the scientists involved in the project – the primary advantage of this fungus is its high degree of porosity. In essence, the porous property provides more spatial scope for lithium ions to move around, thus potentially improving the battery’s performance ambit (with its enhanced ability to store and transfer energy).
The other interesting factor relates to the high potassium salt concentration in mushrooms. This salt content can activate even more pores, thus allowing for increased electrolyte-active material over a period of time. Simply put, this fascinating aspect can actually improve the battery’s capacity the more the battery is used. Such an advantageous scenario contrasts with the regular graphite anode which only allows ‘full access’ to the electrolyte-active material for the first few cycles, and then its capacity fades over time from electrode damage. As Brennan Campbell, from the research team, said –
With battery materials like this, future cell phones may see an increase in run time after many uses, rather than a decrease, due to apparent activation of blind pores within the carbon architectures as the cell charges and discharges over time.
Moreover, from the commercial perspective, conventional graphite is not only expensive to manufacture but also entails hazardous processes, including treatment with toxic chemicals like hydrofluoric and sulphuric acids. These procedures do tend to produce harmful wastes – a potentially major environmental issue in the near future, given that 6 million electric vehicles are predicted to be built by 2020 that would require around an astronomical 900,000 tons of natural raw graphite .
However, in spite of such apparent benefits of mushrooms, the current mushroom battery anode prototype developed by the researchers, is not efficient enough (for commercial usage). Suffice it to say, the scope is still in its nascent stage, with the scientists looking forth to improving and optimizing their lab-tested design. But the good news is – the ‘green’ technology is already being patented, thus alluding to its commercial prospect in the near future.
The study was originally published in Scientific Reports.
Source (Press Release): ScienceDaily