by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo
Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have created cheap and efficient batteries from apple leftovers. Just imagine charging your smartphone by hooking it up to a rotten apple! In reality, this is a little bit of a stretch from what to expect from this discovery but it is by and large a big win for green technology. In a post for Clean Technica, Tina Casey discusses why this ‘apple-power’ could make waves for energy storage systems and could allow sodium-ion batteries to compete with the in-vogue lithium-ion batteries.
Sodium-ion batteries are a relatively new prospect, however, they are already proving to be a generally better alternative to lithium-ion batteries. They are environmentally friendly and the initial materials needed to produce them are highly abundant, easily accessible—sodium makes up over 2.6% of the Earth’s crust—and are available at a much lower cost in comparison to the materials of lithium-ion batteries. For these reasons, there are high expectations for the future of sodium-ion batteries especially when considering the potential of this technology in stationary energy storage systems (something to give Tesla’s Powerwall a run for it’s money). [http://waste-management-world.com/a/german-researchers-use-apple-waste-in-high-power-sodium-ion-batteries]
To understand the finer details of the work of the KIT team, some primary understanding of two key components of a basic battery would prove useful. The key components being referred to here are a battery’s two electrodes—a negative electrode (cathode) and a positive electrode (anode). In a nutshell, these electrodes are where chemical reactions (which generate the electrical energy) occur in batteries. [http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/battery.htm]
The researchers found that apples possess excellent electrochemical properties that make them ideal for use in sodium-ion batteries, when reduced to carbon material. The researchers exploited the 95% carbon content found in apples, by drying them out to create a ‘hard carbon,’ a cheap but high-performing electrode material. [http://www.gizmag.com/sodium-battery-apples/41957/]
Using apple leftovers, the KIT researchers used this newly developed carbon-based material as a negative electrode, which showed minimal degradation after 1,000 charge and discharge cycles. The selling point here is that this process could present a huge prospect for the sustainable use of organic waste for sodium-based energy storage systems.
In addition, the research team developed a material composed of stacked layers of sodium oxides for the positive electrode. The sodium oxides are relatively non-hazardous, abundant and inexpensive in contrast to the cobalt used in lithium ion batteries. Moreover, the energy storage properties of this material offer the same efficiency, cyclic stability, capacity and voltage as its cobalt counterpart. [http://www.kit.edu/kit/english/pi_2016_007_organic-waste-for-sustainable-batteries.php]
With such developments, it only seems to be a matter of time before KIT’s sodium-ion energy storage solution replaces lithium-ion batteries. This technology could also redefine large-scale grid energy storage and even revamp the electric car industry.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (http://www.kit.edu/kit/english/pi_2016_007_organic-waste-for-sustainable-batteries.php)
TAGS: Apples, Sodium-ion batteries, Energy, KIT
TWEET: @TinaMCasey from #Apples to #batteries